While many play Activision's yearly Call of Duty titles for fun, the official Call of Duty League (CDL) opens up the franchise's esports potential. The league hosted its inaugural season in 2020 using Call of Duty: Modern Warfare, but Season 2 based on Black Ops Cold War changed the formula. Apparently that was a successful move for the CDL, as viewership grew when Season 2 kicked off this weekend.
Opening weekend for the league featured ten matches that took place between February 11 and February 14, based on a schedule posted to the official CDL website. The event as a whole was hosted by Atlanta FaZe and took place on YouTube, as YouTube Gaming acquired exclusive rights to the CDL and Overwatch League in early 2020.
Peak viewership over the whole weekend came during the final match between OpTic Chicago and Atlanta FaZe on Sunday, according to a press release sent out by Activision today, with over 131,000 people tuning in. That match ended with Atlanta FaZe winning 3-2, and it featured a 118,000 Average Minute Audience (AMA); a calculation of how many people on average watched per-minute. As a result, the set of five Call of Duty games broke the record for peak viewership in the CDL's regular season period.
The Season 2 opening weekend was also the league's most-watched event outside of the 2020 Champs, with an 80,000 AMA over all four days. There were 1.3 million unique viewers, up 70 percent over the 2020 opening weekend according to this press release, and of those about 209,000 people linked their accounts.
As impressive as this all sounds, the CDL is relatively new and still pales in comparison to the esports scenes around titles such as League of Legends. The tenth World Championship League of Legends event in 2020 had a 23.04 million AMA and 45.95 million peak concurrent users, according to Riot Games. Because of the growing popularity of these kinds of events, Forbes reported the most valuable esports organization in 2020 was Team SoloMid, which was worth $410 million.
It's not entirely clear what led the CDL 2021 opening weekend to be more successful than last year, be it the shift to a new game with its own unique ruleset or the general cascading effect of being a more established name. Regardless, the Activision press release says the league's growth came "even in the face of COVID," so it will be interesting to see if that continues beyond opening weekend. With Black Ops Cold War announcing its Season 2 content today, there's certainly a chance that will give the CDL staying power.
So far, there has been a ton of speculation regarding Call of Duty 2021, but a recent leak is causing a stir among the community. Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War shocked fans upon its initial reveal and quickly dominated sales across the globe. With the Call of Duty franchise trending, community speculation is rampant as to what the next game will hold for fans.
So far, the only firm leak that players can go on is that Sledgehammer Games will most likely be developing Call of Duty 2021. This development team is best known for their work with Call of Duty: WW2 and Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare. With their drastically different styles present, anything could be on the horizon for the popular shooter franchise.
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