The Call of Duty League 2021 season is set to officially kick off on February 11th with the Atlanta Faze home series, running through February 14th. While it may look like another season of competitive Call of Duty on the surface, this year’s CDL season has undergone some pretty significant changes and considerations in light of the ongoing pandemic.
Following up the Call of Duty League 2020 season, which was heavily impacted and shifted by COVID, organizers have made some adjustments to better position this year’s events around the all-digital focus that the pandemic has forced the world into. Last year called for a lot of on-the-fly changes. Knowing what to expect this year, organizers were able to better prepare and pre-plan. Rallying fans behind Home Series tournaments works well under the idea that fans can support their teams in person, but limitations on physical events means rethinking how to get fans involved and hyped for the season’s various tournaments.
This year’s League Season will consist of five stages, each being three Home Series weekends leading to a “Major Tournament.” These larger events will feature all 12 teams, seeded by group play matches in the three Home Series events preceding it. Major Tournaments will act as pillars throughout the Season, leading up to the Call of Duty League Playoffs later in the year.
Unlike last year where every team had an opportunity to compete in the playoffs, CDL 2021 will limit the grand event to just eight teams, seeded by CDL Points earned during matches throughout the year. Match wins during the Home Series events will grant points, as well as tiered points being granted depending on placements during each of the five Major Tournaments. Only eight teams will qualify, while four will be going home—or staying home, rather—without a shot at the title. It’s high-stakes seeding that ups the ante for every single match played throughout the rest of the season.
Coming off of an unprecedented year impacted by the pandemic—Call of Duty League’s inaugural year—it was important that they adjust to operate better for both the fans and players in order to keep excitement going for the CDL. After last year still managed to garner the League’s highest viewership in spite of COVID, better preparedness this year bodes well for players and fans alike.
Call of Duty League 2021 – Dynamic Undercurrent
Shifting to a new game creates drastic changes to Call of Duty esports year over year. Call of Duty League 2021 is being played in Black Ops Cold War, with a shift to 4v4 play versus last year’s 5v5 team dynamic. This year also features a platform change, moving off of PlayStation and over to PC with controller.
Of course, the game isn’t the only thing changing. Shifting players and teams means former teammates become rivals, and new bonds are formed. Last year OpTic was a Los Angeles franchise, but with its return to founder Hector Rodriguez, the former Chicago Huntsmen are now OpTic Chicago. The open Los Angeles spot was surprisingly taken by former Call of Duty pro Nadeshot and his 100 Thieves brand—who initially opted out of franchisement for the CDL’s first season. They’ll compete this year as the LA Thieves.
One of the biggest player shifts is Dallas Empire’s Clayster heading to the New York Subliners. Dallas won the CDL 2020 Championship, so his move creates a wrinkle and all new rivalries. Will fans follow their favorite players, or stick with their preferred teams regardless of where the players go? Trimming League play down to 4v4 meant some tough calls as each team crafted its CDL roster for the 2021 season, and this will undoubtedly result in some tense drama between players and teams this year.
All of these changes create a flowing undercurrent of dynamics that will ripple into every single match played. It’s anybody’s game, and it gives a lot of underdog energy to teams that may not command the same kind of attention as the likes of OpTic, Faze, or 100 Thieves.
Call of Duty League 2021 – A Stronger Connection to Fans
Call of Duty League 2021 is once again looking to connect with fans in more ways, and those efforts are already showing in Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War and Warzone. CDL team packs let players represent their favorite teams with cosmetic packs that include Operator skins and various other in-game items. New account connectivity with YouTube will let Call of Duty players earn exclusive viewership rewards for watching matches, with previous reports suggesting these rewards may even include exclusive Operator skins.
The recently launched League Play in Black Ops Cold War provides a ranked system of competitive play that can better bridge that gap between the CDL’s pro players and the average Call of Duty player at home. CDL is also exploring ways to generate more excitement around the Challengers, which are feeders for Call of Duty League pro play. That’s an effort that will be ongoing, with particular focus on highlighting who we may see coming up from Challengers as the next generation of Call of Duty pros.
Given the enormous success of Call of Duty: Warzone, they are also looking for ways to better connect the massively multiplayer free-to-play battle royale title with competitive Call of Duty. How exactly this plays out remains to be seen, but last year’s Call of Duty League Championships were broadcast virtually from within Warzone’s Verdansk stadium and in-game imagery changed to support and advertise the Championship weekend in an immersive way.
Fans can also put a bit of skin in the game with Call of Duty League Pick ’em, a competition where viewers can predict which teams will win and by how many matches in order to win prizes. Predicting correctly will grant points towards a number of prizes throughout the five stages of CDL 2021. It’s yet another channel of engagement for viewers, making Call of Duty League an exciting and full featured series of events that are so much more than each match that is played. It’s a culture.
And this is just the beginning. More announcements are bound to come throughout the year. Call of Duty League 2020 featured celebrity hype battles—unfortunately derailed by the pandemic and the tragic death of Kobe Bryant—and new side events this year are bound to accent the main tournaments and matches throughout this season. Last year also featured the late-season reveal of an actual championship throne for the Call of Duty League Championship winners, so expect plenty of surprises this year to keep you engaged.
Call of Duty League 2021 began with a pre-season event last month, and it officially kicks off with the Atlanta Faze Home Series running from February 11th-14th. The two following weekends will play host to two more Home Series events, with the first Major Tournament concluding Stage 1 of CDL 2021 the first week of March. Additional schedules will be announced on the Call of Duty League’s official site at a later time.
All Call of Duty League 2021 matches will be broadcast on YouTube.com/CODLeague.