The following article was written by guest contributor, Alan ‘Bricey’ Brice.
For the longest time a debate has raged about how to increase the profile of Call of duty esports and capture that all important “casual player” demographic.
The main point of contention has always been the ruleset and how we can keep it as unrestrictive as possible and encourage people to try competitive CoD without having to read a long list of what they can and cant do. While there have been many compromises from both sides on this subject, I have never felt like it was the real issue.
While I could sit here and explain the theory of ruleset making, and the two main different schools of thought, this really isn’t relevant to what will spark the single greatest leap forward in player capture and retention.
However, it does explain one of the major pitfalls in the average CoD player’s introduction to the world of esports. Not only did you have to go outside the game to find matches, you also had to manually read what you could and could not use and then adjust all of these settings in-game before you even started playing. Not to mention the fact that you had to sign up to websites, and try to get people into a lobby, just to play.
This is no longer an issue.
The addition of fully integrated Gamebattles and ranked play into Call of Duty could very well set the tone for a full upswing in the history of the esport. Granted, we saw Gamebattles included in Infinite Warfare in Beta form, and we always harken back to the days of Black Ops 2 and its Ranked play system, but it has never all been in one place for people to jump straight in and enjoy.
The first attempt at Gamebattles integration came in Infinite Warfare
Now, to explain why this is an exciting concept, you have to accept the reason that many people actually play Competitive is because it’s fun.
Call of Duty esports is an intense, fast, and incredible way to play Call of Duty. It is quite literally a unique way to play that will hook anyone who loves to test their limits. However, Call of Duty has suffered from a lack of accessibility for anyone trying to engage in it as an esport.
The integration of Gamebattles and ranked play has been far from easy, and I wont pretend that it hasn’t had more than its share of teething problems — you would only have to check twitter — and ongoing issues mean it still isn’t a perfect system.
But, it is a better system than any we have seen before — it is a thousand times more accessible for an average player to get a taste of Call of Duty Esports than it ever has been before.
Sure, we are still a long way away from casual players lording their ranks over fellow players like you see in other major esports (CS:GO, LoL), but it’s a starting point and these players will surely want to achieve a higher ranking. By doing so, they will have already taken their first steps into the fold.
If ranked play is the entrance, then Gamebattles is the lobby (no pun intended). Once players have experienced the same game modes and rules presented to them in ranked, they will have an easy opportunity to join forces with friends and test their skills in a much more structured environment — Gamebattles — against significantly better teams and players.
It can be hard for casual players to understand the differences in the professional game
The truth is that once players take these steps, they are already in. They will be able to watch the professionals with a level of understanding that was lacking when casual players spectated in the past.
They will understand the difference between a spectacular individual performance in a professional Hardpoint game, and going 50-10 in a public game of Domination while hiding in corners and placing a Bouncing Betty or two at all of the entrances.
I know this for a fact, as I have seen it happen more than once to players who had never tried anything except the vanilla experience.
The truth is that Call of Duty Esports, for the people already in love with it, only got slightly better by introducing a slicker experience using the new integrated features. Who else remembers the days of the Decerto “scrim now”?
Could a clearer path mean that we see more prodigies like Huke break through?
In reality, the people who will benefit and bring a new wave of life to CoD Esports are the players stepping into a new world for the first time. I use the word “stepping” with the full understanding that there are now actual steps for casual players to take, rather than the gaping chasm that separated us before.
Many people have looked at the new system as a nice addition, but something that really isn’t much different to what they have been doing without it. But thanks to those that made the leap before, now new players don’t have to jump and can simply follow a clearly laid out path into the world of competitive Call of Duty.
From ranked play to Gamebattles, and from 2K tournaments to Open LAN events, the steps are now clearer than ever before.
This is why it is the greatest step forward in Call of Duty Esports since the day that Activision thought, “let’s try a $1 million Championship.”