The 2021 season of the Call of Duty League is about to enter Stage IV week 3 and make their thankful return to LAN gameplay. The season so far has been overall a success with some new stars coming alive and top talent showing out for viewers, but over the last few weeks an unfortunate trend has started to show for the league. Fans are starting to become bored with the league and viewership is starting to plumett. After setting viewing records to start their 2021 season fans have come out yelling about how they just aren’t watching the league anymore. After a quick poll it wasn’t hard to see that for fans there wasn’t one central idea and the league might have some serious work to put in here soon.
A major issue for many fans is the league has become stale. Once the league franchised and the format of Champs changed from everyone qualifies to only top 8 of 12 it made matches not mean anything far sooner in the season. If you took the total score of the bottom four teams who are the Seattle Surge, Paris Legion, London Royal Ravens, and Los Angeles Guerillas and added their season total points they would only be in second place by ten points. The top team, Atlanta Faze, would still have a 110 point lead on them. There are only five stages total in the regular season and after this next upcoming major the top five teams could all have their sport clinched already for Champs. What incentive is there for anyone to watch an Atlanta Faze vs Seattle Surge matchup at this point? Unlike most sports where even the teams tanking have something going for them like a draft pick or trade in the CDL there’s nothing fun. Teams who are awful just suck, plain and simple.
The second issue for viewership is the scheduling of matches. In the prime of COD when it was the Call of Duty World League matches were jammed in there from Friday to Sunday and didn’t start while you were at work. Currently we have matches starting at 3 PM ET on Thursday and Friday which basically destroys the chance of anyone in the United States with a job watching the matches. You can’t rely your viewership on children who are out on summer break from school. Most professional and major collegiate sports also schedule their prime matches during primetime. The Call of Duty league still seems to be throwing a dart at the board for their matchup time and hoping their serious fans stick around. If you have a chance to show Atlanta Faze and Optic Chicago in primetime then you tell the other brands to screw off and put those guys on the big screen.
The third issue sounds too simple but it has become a major issue for COD gameplay and it’s the fact that it’s not fun to watch. Thankfully gameplay moved back to 4v4 this season, because 5v5 might have been the worst decision I’ve ever seen a professional league of any kind make. Fans were so excited to get back to the possibility of guys making amazing comebacks and quick plays, but then the sniper got taken out of the league before we even got official gameplay. Professional COD and Search and Destroy without snipers is like basketball without the three pointer, football without the forward pass, or baseball with the homerun. It’s boring. It’s nearly impossible to talk about any season of COD prior to this one without someone mentioning a top play involving a sniper rifle. They made Search and Destroy play completely different with their styles and gave us highlight after highlight. You take away that aspect plus the seed of the last two games and it’s hard to make fans stay interested in your game.
The fourth major issue is the online gameplay. When the league made the move to go online due to the ongoing pandemic it made sense. You had to keep your fans and players safe from a virus no one understood. Thankfully this weekend at least the players are making their return to LAN, but the league itself has butchered the online play and the move back to LAN. Throughout the online gameplay players have had to deal with server issues almost every weekend and discrepancies in online connection performance. Last year’s online championship isn’t considered real by some fans and major stat keeping websites make sure readers know what happened on LAN and what happened online. In many fans’ opinions the players should have already been back in person with the fans being able to come back around this time to gain some hype before Champs. As previously stated this doesn’t all fall on the league as they can’t control a global pandemic but the hustle to get players and fans back in person has rubbed some people the wrong way.
The new COD experience hasn’t been all bad. The current Call of Duty League setup has been put through more than its fair amount in their opening two seasons. Surviving a pandemic, a sponsor in Activision who could care less about the game, and just the normal issues that come with a new league being created. It’s easily been the best place to watch the best talent in the world battle it out week in and out. Soon, more than likely after this season, a decision will need to be made for the future. COD needed to be franchised, but what made the game fun for fans was it’s unique style of professional content. Every week seemed like it used to mean something and at any time you could have amatuer teams going up against the top teams in the world with a chance to surprise everyone. Now it seems like fans and amateurs are being left in the dust to follow the money trail. If changes aren’t made soon you could soon see a league that just got off the group come crumbling down far too early. The Call of Duty League is at a crossroads and I’m not sure the people leading it know how to fix the issue.
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