The year of 2016 was a mixed bag for the Call of Duty scene, with both highs and lows for the competitive players and spectators involved with Activision’s popular console shooter.
The introduction of the CoD World League brought fresh changes to the competitive circuit, with a number of unpopular choices including the idea that Black Ops 3 could be played without any competitive rules, tournament formats should become single elimination and the majority of games should be played online.
Whilst there were certainly flaws in the system, 2016 still provided some of the most memorable Call of Duty events to date, with record breaking prize money across premium quality events, alongside unprecedented global media coverage.
So what were the best events of 2016 based on competition, prize money and quality of games?
Hosted at the Mandalay Bay Casino and Hotel convention centre, MLG Las Vegas was Infinite Warfare’s first major event for the new Call of Duty title.
Located inside the main hotel, players and spectators didn’t even have to leave the building with restaurants, bars, casino, accommodation and venue all under one roof.
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Although some players complained of the long walk to the venue, once there you could spend your time watching live matches or head into the End Game area where activities such as Dodge Ball and VR were on offer to play.
At most large open tournaments it’s Pool Play that gets all the attention, however with over 160 teams in attendance, the Open Bracket was the most competitive the CoD community had ever seen, including five pro European teams.
The North American squads of Evil Geniuses and Enigma6 made it to pool play alongside the European’s of Splyce and Elevate. In the loser bracket, Infused from Europe made it out alongside Lethal, PNDA and Rogue.
In pool play the big stories were OpTic Gaming and Team EnVyUs both getting put into the loser bracket directly from the groups after suffering shock losses. Meanwhile Open Bracket team, Enigma6, were the only squad to advance with a 3-0 record.
After a long couple of days of competing, it came down to the grand final with Rise Nation defeating Cloud9 3-2 to be crowned champions. The result meant that Rise captain, Daniel ‘Loony’ Loza, had won the opening major events, two years in a row.
MLG Las Vegas will go down as one of the best events of 2016 because of both the calibre of competition in attendance and showing spectators that Infinite Warfare can be fun to watch.
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The return of Major League Gaming to the competitive Call of Duty circuit was met with a large sigh of relief when the $100,000 MLG Anaheim tournament was announced for June 2016.
Playing out on Black Ops 3, it was the first opportunity for teams to show their worth after UMG South Carolina struggled to get over the finish line when controller issues caused huge delays.
Taking place at the iconic Anaheim Convention Center, players and fans remembered the good times at a location that has hosted Call of Duty events as far back as 2011. With the sun shining on the venue, the mood was one of positivity as the Black Ops 3 season felt like it had started.
Due to three pro European teams attending, the Open Bracket was stacked with Splyce, Millenium and Infused all making the trip over. They were joined by other top North American teams including Cloud9 Eclipse, Echo Fox and Primed.
After two days of competing through the open gauntlet, all three European teams made it out to the groups, joined by the North American’s of Lethal Gaming.
In pool play the CoD World League Pro Division sides from NA were played out on Friday and Saturday, with FaZe Clan the only real surprise as they dropped out in the losers bracket. Team Infused on the other hand become the only Open team to advance to the winner bracket.
When the grand final approached it was the OpTic Gaming once again coming out on top against Elevate, with a swift 3-0 victory to lift the trophy alongside Treyarch’s David Vonderhaar. It was their fourth successive event in a row after winning ESWC, Crown Melbourne and the S1 Pro Division.
Anaheim was the first double elimination event for Black Ops 3 and the first event by MLG, signalling the return of regular service for a community who had began to become impatient with Activision’s way of running competitive CoD.
The event proved the publisher were willing to listen and combined with MLG’s experience, made it an instant 2016 classic.
The best event of the year had to be the $2 million spectacle that was the Call of Duty XP World Championships in September.
The culmination of a season that had had its ups and downs, CoD XP was the icing on the cake for the competitive community in one of the most competitive competitions in the series history.
Unlike previous world championships for Call of Duty, this event took place at the end of the year which meant that teams had had a chance to sound each other out. It was also the first that individual countries didn’t get a spot automatically, with regional online qualifiers ensuring only the best teams were in attendance.
The round robin group format provided plenty of drama as no Australian or New Zealand team made it out of the groups for the first time since the world championships started in 2013. It was also goodbye to mainland European teams, with only British squads advancing.
In the winner bracket there were more surprises awaiting, including OpTic Gaming falling to their old rivals, Team EnVyUs. The GreenWall were sent to the loser bracket and eventually lost to Cloud9 to finish in 7th/8th position to match 2015’s equally disappointing performance.
Team EnVyUs pushed on from their OpTic win to take down FaZe, FAB and Elevate to set themselves up in the grand final, showing the power that had won the CWL S2 Pro Division playoffs.
Their opposition in that final was the surprise European side of Splyce, who made an epic loser bracket run as they took down Team Kaliber, FaZe Clan, Rise Nation, FAB and Elevate to reach Team EnVyUs.
After reaching this stage at the 2013 and 2014 world championships, you’d have been forgiven for writing off EnVyUs again, but they made no mistake as they took down Splyce 3-1 to be crowned world champions in front of a sellout crowd at the Forum in Los Angeles.
CoD XP provided international media attention, record breaking prize money and huge spectator figures for those watching streams and at the venue. It was a highly competitive tournament that will go down in history as undoubtably one of the greatest CoD events of all time.