On March 7, 2020, three Call of Duty League casters sat a few feet away from each other, no masks in sight. They were running through the pregame show before the Los Angeles Home Series, a Home Series that turned out to be the final LAN of the CDL’s inaugural 2020 season. As they mentioned Warzone, a new Call of Duty mode set to come out on March 10, the chat filled up with the question: “What’s Warzone?”
Although the event happened just over a year ago, it feels like another era.
Live esports events capture a special energy, one that Activision Blizzard was banking on as they embarked on the goal to change how esports leagues operate. Now, with the CDL announcing that LAN events are finally returning soon following a year of online play, the question becomes: Can the CDL pick up where they left off?
In all, the CDL was able to host four events before the COVID-19 pandemic led to a global shutdown: Launch Weekend in Minneapolis, the London Home Series, the Atlanta Home Series and the LA Home Series. Although there were questions swirling around the league’s structure as it shifted from the open Call of Duty World League, in which any COD team could qualify to compete, to the closed franchised Call of Duty League and from Twitch to YouTube, in general, these events all went well.
In Minneapolis, former members of OpTic’s Green Wall showed their allegiance followed Hector “H3CZ” Rodriguez to the Chicago Huntsmen, not to OpTic LA. Photo: Call of Duty League
In Atlanta, the hometown FaZe welcomed the crowd with a row of high fives. Photo: Call of Duty League
In London, a packed crowd got ready for a marquee matchup between the Chicago Huntsmen and Dallas Empire. Photo: Call of Duty League
The Dallas Empire celebrated after winning the team’s first Home Series of the year in LA, a precursor to the success the team would eventually find in the championship later in the year. Photo: Call of Duty League
Moments like this one, a group hug unhindered by thoughts of social distancing after a triumph, encapsulate so much of what was missing throughout this past year. Photo: Call of Duty League
The CDL, and the Overwatch League, were built with LANs in mind. When COVID made them impossible, Activision Blizzard had to scramble to adapt to the new restrictions. Over the past year, the Call of Duty League crowned its first champion in the Dallas Empire, brought back fan favorite Matthew “Nadeshot” Haag with the LA Thieves and saw OpTic return to the hands of H3CZ. Warzone exploded and helped Call of Duty reach 100 million monthly players consistently in 2020.
Back in LA, there was a lot of talk about how the looming pandemic that was already wreaking havoc in Asia and Europe would impact the United States. Just three days after the LA Home Series wrapped up, NBA player Rudy Gobert tested positive, leading the NBA to shut down operations March 11. Every other sports and esports league followed suit as America entered into a complete shutdown for most of the spring.
Los Angeles Lakers player Kyle Kuzma stoped by the broadcast desk during the LA Home Series. The NBA, like the CDL, would shut down a few days later. Photo: Call of Duty League
Over a year later there is a light at the end of the tunnel. As of April 13, 75,000,000 Americans have been fully vaccinated, about 22% of the population. America is vaccinating nearly 4 million people every day and, at its current pace, will reach the 70-85% figure that experts have marked by July.
The CDL’s announcement of the return of LANs is a bit vague as there is still so much up in the air. But the light is getting brighter, businesses are starting to reopen and the hype is growing louder as the days go by.
Lead photo credit: Call of Duty League.