There may not be another video game franchise that has dominated the past decade more than Call of Duty. Even at a time when gamers have access to a huge variety of experiences, from shooters and MOBAs to slots from online casino site operators, CoD managed to secure 10 of the top 20 spaces in the list of best-selling video games recently published by NPD and has generated billions of dollars in revenue for publisher Activision Blizzard.
It is perhaps a surprise that it has taken so long for an officially backed professional esports league to be built around Call of Duty. What is less surprising is the fact that vast resources are being pumped into the fledgling league to get it off the ground following its January 2020 inauguration.
A whole heap of cash was already changing hands before the first match in the pro league had been played, with franchisees reportedly shelling out $25 million for the privilege of being featured.
This is a serious chunk of change, but it brings with it a number of perks, such as escaping from the peril of potentially facing relegation as existed in some previous pro league formats.
Each team is based in a specific city, and there are a number of requirements that teams must adhere to in order to remain part of the league. This includes paying players a minimum of $50,000 annually on top of benefits which go towards covering the cost of healthcare as well as handling retirement packages.
The basic salary a player earns will be made available regardless of whether or not they win competitions, but those teams that manage to triumph in competitive scenarios will rake in plenty of prize money and can be certain to net at least 50% of these winnings under Activision Blizzard’s regulations.
A total of 12 teams are in the Call of Duty pro league in its initial incarnation, with the majority being based in North America. Amongst their number are Atlanta Faze, Dallas Empire, and the New York Subliners.
Two European sides, the London Ravens and Paris Legion, are also in the running, although it is interesting to see that there is something of a geographic bias in the current makeup. This no doubt translates to the fact that Call of Duty is far more successful in western nations than it is elsewhere in the world, so franchise teams are focused in places where they are likely to garner the biggest audiences.
Following its release in November last year, the reboot of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare has become yet another top seller for the publisher, so it makes sense that this latest version is also the game of choice for competitive play in the newly established league. The platform of choice is the PlayStation 4, as competitive Call of Duty continues to eschew the traditional PC platform for consoles.
The first season of play is expected to run through September this year, with matches taking place between teams on a weekly basis and a best-of-five format being used to determine winners.
Once the main bulk of the season has concluded, the teams which have managed to get the best win-to-loss ratios are required to enter the playoffs in order to determine the inaugural champion.
Because it is a global league, teams will travel to different host cities from week to week, meaning that each side will get to play in their home city before having to travel to the headquarters of their rivals.