Last week, Call of Duty World War II launched in what was one of the most eagerly anticipated releases in the world. Sledgehammer Games’ latest release eschewed the more fantastical and futuristic gameplay of Black Ops 2 for a more realistic simulation-based game. It was warmly received by fans and raked in an incredible $500 million during its opening weekend.
This is a triumphant return to the original form of Call of Duty gaming, only updated based on the real-life horrors of World War II. This fact hits home from the opening moments of the Campaign Mode, in which the player storms the Normandy beaches. It is as compelling as it is brutally realistic.
However, I am not going to turn this article into a lengthy espousal of why you should play the game. This game asks for a more important examination.
World War II came with a fully dedicated esports gaming section within it, which will be ready to play in full by the end of the year. So what is the difference between having a public match, as almost all players of Call of Duty have at one time or another, and a competitive esports game?
Michael Condrey, the co-founder of Sledgehammer, told the Daily Star both forms are closer than people realize and that this presents a unique opportunity to grow esports beyond its current base of players and fans.
“The community all wants the same thing: good maps, good strategic flow, well-balanced weapons, well-balanced scorestreaks,” Condrey said. “If you’re the best player in the world, or someone coming in new, everyone wants an even playing field.”
Condrey confirmed that a top esports player, RamboEsports (also known as Ray), was hired by Sledgehammer to join the design team and develop the new game’s esports option.
“Ray… [ is able to] pick up the controller and play the maps and instinctively feel things on the controller, on spawns, on lanes, on head glitch sights that are all beyond my capability,” Condrey said. “Those are the exact things that make the game better for everyone.”
World League season details
The World League for Call of Duty is back, and the plans for the next season have already been revealed. The season will start at the CWL Dallas Global Open on Dec. 8 at the Ken Bailey Hutchison Convention Center. There is a $200,000 prize pool up for grabs. Across the next 10 months, there will be six of these events each with $200,000 prize pools.
Alongside these individual events, the CWL Pro League will be running throughout the year with players earning CWL Pro Points to determine places in the league table and where they are seeded for top events.
The CWL Pro League will feature two divisions of eight teams: 10 from North America, five from Europe, and one from the Asia-Pacific region. The first stage of this tournament begins Jan. 23. It will run until the playoffs begin on April 6. The playoffs have a separate prize pool of $500,000.
The second stage of the tournament then starts on May 15, with the playoffs following on July 27.
Alongside these events, there is also a lower level CWL National Circuit featuring eight online leagues from Australia, Canada, France, Italy, Germany, Spain, the UK, and the United States. These teams can earn CWL Pro Points to earn travel to one of the six Global Opens throughout the year. In the final stage of the tournament, they could earn the biggest prize — a place in the Last Chance Qualifier for the 2018 Call of Duty World League Championship.
This is the biggest event of the year and is scheduled to take place in August 2018. A $1.5 million prize fund is up for grabs.
Players can also enter individual esports ranking events for the new Call of Duty. These allow players to move up the rankings as they play online against competitors at similar levels.
This could well be the start of top console games developing their own dedicated esports gaming options. Many franchises enjoy heavy esports followings, for instance Halo, FIFA, Call of Duty, and Battlefield. However, these tournaments are set up usually by the game developers or third parties.
Will all games now come with their own esports options built in? The next few months of World War II’s performance should provide a signal.