Nobody Seems to Care About the Call of Duty League – Here’s Why
Do you ever hear people talking about the Call of Duty League? Posting about it even? I can say without a shadow of a doubt that I’ve never heard these phrases in my entire life:
- Did you catch the CDL games this weekend?
- I spent my entire weekend watching the CDL on Twitch!
- I am really passionate about [CDL team here]!
- Who do you think will win the CDL?
- I am watching the CDL.
- I know what’s going on in the CDL.
- You know what esport I’m thinking about? CDL.
- I can name a CDL team and/or player!
The Call of Duty League 2021 Finals won by the Atlanta FaZe peaked at 238.7K concurrent viewers, according to Esports Charts. This is down almost 28% from the peak concurrent viewership of the 2020 Call of Duty League Finals. The 21 hours of finals action also saw about 39% fewer hours watched than last year, the championship viewership down about 2% overall.
It’s not an opinion to say that the Call of Duty League is losing viewers — it’s a statistical fact.
But what’s harder to pinpoint is why. Why is nobody watching the Call of Duty League? Why does nobody care about the Call of Duty League teams?
Nobody Cares About Call of Duty Black Ops Cold War…
The Overwatch League, despite all of the issues happening at Activision Blizzard, saw record-breaking viewership in 2021. So we can’t really blame Activision Blizzard, despite many people wanting to blame Blizzard for obvious reasons.
The Call of Duty League has a similar franchise setup to the Overwatch League, with teams representing various cities and regions (and the CDL is honestly doing a better job at this than the OWL). It’s run by the same company. It has a similar tournament structure. So what gives?
The big difference between those two leagues is — of course — the games. The Call of Duty League features Call of Duty while the Overwatch League showcases Overwatch. This is quite obvious. But what should be noted about this, however, is that the majority of Call of Duty players don’t play multiplayer. They play the free-to-play battle royale, Call of Duty: Warzone.
Call of Duty: Warzone has 100 million players compared to Call of Duty: Blacks Ops Cold War’s 2 million players. Call of Duty: Warzone also has been watched over 778.7 million hours this year while Black Ops Cold War has been watched over 67.8 million hours, according to SullyGnome.
When it comes to the Overwatch League, the LCS, Rocket League Championship Series, Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, these esports franchises feature games that millions of fans play themselves. They experience the same maps, characters, playstyles, techniques, and rules. For example, Overwatch players also had the 2-2-2 lock just as pros in the Overwatch League did, allowing them to better understand the strategies and choices of the top teams and even watch the games to get ideas for their own ranked matches.
Watching the best players play a game you are currently grinding yourself can make the viewing experience more exciting as well as an opportunity to learn. Seeing players excel in a game you play can feel inspirational — it’s mindblowing to see what they can discover and successfully implement in the exact same game you just played.
On the other hand, most Call of Duty fans aren’t playing the same game that the pros are playing. They are playing Warzone. And Activision Blizzard has done a pretty bad job of recognizing this and using it to promote the Call of Duty League in any way.
A lot of Call of Duty fans — and FPS players in general — have found Black Ops Cold War to be pretty boring. They don’t like to play it. It’s clunky. The ranked maps are undesirable. And they don’t like to watch it. Most streamers even avoid it. The category on Twitch currently has 609 viewers (Warzone has over 43,000).
Of course, watching top players is still more exciting than watching a random streamer flounder in the game. But it’s still not the most riveting experience if you don’t play the game yourself and find the gameplay boring to watch in general. This has made the Call of Duty League feel a bit separated from the Call of Duty fanbase, who are mostly focused on Warzone, both playing it and watching it.
…and Activision Blizzard is Doing Nothing About It
Activision Blizzard hasn’t really picked up on this. And if they have, the developers have done nothing about it. Many Call of Duty fans, who are busy playing Warzone, were not even that aware that the Call of Duty League existed. Why isn’t Blizzard advertising it in Warzone itself? Heck, why not even make Call of Duty League play Warzone competitively?
Call of Duty League teams are full of players that Call of Duty fans have never heard of. And the league nor the teams are doing much about this. Why are the pros not streaming Call of Duty: Warzone? Why are they not really streaming in general? Why are they not making fun content on Twitter?
I looked at the Atlanta FaZe’s Twitter and it’s nowhere near as vibrant as some of their other channels and teams. Their most-viewed content was a cooking contest of sorts. Their least-viewed is their gameplay, clips, and CDL-related tweets. Go figure. And there are no clips of them playing Warzone.
The pros are just unrelatable and boring to the Call of Duty scene. They are playing a “dead game” that nobody wants to play or watch. They are playing in a league that doesn’t cater to the ever-changing esports and gaming landscape.
I don’t watch League of Legends because I don’t play — but the game has 117 million active users a month. It makes sense that the viewership is so huge. And that’s not even counting the advertising, content, streaming, etc. Meanwhile, nobody is playing Call of Duty Black Ops Cold War. There are currently 153,000 active users. So it makes sense why nobody would be watching people play it. There is nothing to learn. Nothing to be gained. It’s a game they don’t enjoy. So don’t expect people to tune in for the Call of Duty League.
Will Call of Duty League Improve in 2022?
Call of Duty League is switching to the newest Call of Duty title, Call of Duty: Vanguard. But I don’t see this doing much to help the Call of Duty League’s viewership.
Call of Duty: Vanguard saw the worst CoD launch in the past 14 years. GamesIndustry.biz published sales data showing that Vanguard’s opening week was down 40% from Call of Duty Black Ops Cold War. You know, the game everyone dislikes currently — and Vanguard saw even worse reception early on.
Call of Duty: Vanguard is not looking to be any more popular than Black Ops Cold War, although more content is coming in the next few months. Meanwhile, Warzone is continuing to gain viewership and players, with most of the player base completely ignoring the drop of Vanguard.
It would be a stretch to say that Call of Duty League will suddenly see an immense amount of new viewership due to the implementation of Vanguard. Vanguard sold nearly 200% fewer copies in its opening week, according to the data. While still a popular game in general, it’s not considered too hype within the Call of Duty player base.
At the time of writing, there are 49,000 people watching Vanguard on Twitch. This is definitely a good amount but you can expect it to decline as the game ages. By the next season of the Call of Duty League, the game will be a few months old and the hype will have worn down. That will be the true test if Vanguard holds up at all or if fans will go back to Warzone, once again making the main multiplayer game irrelevant.