It’s been one week since the Call of Duty World League-Dallas wrapped. It’s been one week since the bomb threat evacuations, and since Team Kaliber majorly upset reigning Optic Gaming, taking home the CWL-Dallas championship.
I was on scene at the event and was able to sit down with the Director of Marketing of Call of Duty for MLG, Kevin Flynn. It was cool to not only see him behind closed doors having a conversation about the tournament but to also see him on the show floor amongst the fans sharing in the excitement as the teams slugged it out day-to-day.
What’s the biggest difference in this season of CWL?
The game. That would be the very biggest difference because obviously, we’ve transitioned to support Call of Duty: WWII, which came out November 3, so that’s definitely the single biggest difference. Aside from that, probably the scale we’re delivering at this year, and the level of participation we’re seeing across all parts of the competition, online and offline. It’s really great to see.
Have you seen an uptake in participants between other games and WWII?
Strictly through the CWL ends, yeah. Absolutely, we’ve seen really an uplifting in participation already this year, and this weekend alone in Dallas we set a record for the biggest Call of Duty land event to date. And we’ve got over 200 teams here, so that’s over 800 players fighting for that $200,000 prize pool. We’ve already beaten that record for the next event in New Orleans as well, where we’re up to 272 teams. And when you look online, the game battles participation for CWL 2K, it’s been off the charts.
We’re seeing thousands and thousands of players competing at the weekend online. We already have tens of thousands of players who have got our CWL pro points, so we’ve already surpassed last year’s high point which was massive growth on the previous year. So, it’s all going well.
Any idea about general admission here this weekend?
I mean there’s a couple thousand people in there, plus all the gamers as well. It’s a pretty packed room just now; we just had Optic Gaming and EnvyUs on stage. It was pretty much standing room only already, so it sets us up well for tomorrow.
In terms of the new edition of WWII, what do you think the CWL will look like in a year?
We’re going to get through this season; we’re really focused on delivering the experiences that we’ve planned and announced. We’ve got a lot ahead of us, all the global opens across North America and the UK, with multiplay. We’ve got our pro league to get started, which is going to be across 18 weeks this year in total. So, we’ve got plenty at hand. I think our goal for next year will be to evolve and build on it and make sure that when we’re having our first event next year, we’re in a stronger position and it’s a bigger, better event than this is. So, just aspirations to keep improving.
What about in the next five years?
That is a great question. So I think in the next five years it’s about how do you get it bigger? How do we get into arenas more frequently in the season? The last couple of years for our Champs event, last year at the Amway Center, home of the Orlando Magic, year before we were at the Forum. So we’re already getting to the point where our biggest moments of the year are in our biggest settings. I think part of that five-year plan has got to be how do we do that more often? How do we take over homes of major sports teams to bring Call of Duty to life? That’s a pretty ambitious goal for us to be striving for, but one that we can definitely do.
What’s your dream arena?
Probably the Emirates Stadium, home of Arsenal FC, but that’s just my English roots. So that’s a very personal one. I think over here, you’ve got the likes of Madison Square Garden and the Staples Center on either coast, and lots of big venues in between, but I’ll stick with Arsenal.
We’re a group of enthusiast sites for all platforms, what’s your advice for somebody that’s looking to break onto the scene?
There’s definitely a path, and if you look at last season, we had a team called E United. Now, they’re regarded as one of the top Call of Duty teams and organizations out there. But they burst onto the scene last year, and they had to play their game battles ladders, which is like a daily opportunity to play a competitive match. And they played their weekend CWL 2K (?) comps, they ended up winning Atlanta, one of our majors and as a result, they’re part of our hall of champions now.
So you can dip your toe in ranked, and get used to it. Then I’d say you’re looking to progress to game battles, the most important thing there is to find three friends who are up for that commitment with you. You want to make sure that they’re up for that grind as well, and grind in a positive way.
So there is a blueprint there, there is a path you can do. So I’d say, get in there, this year with WWII it’s easier than ever to play competitive. You’ve got ranked play, and then you have game battles integrated in the main menu, so it’s just a couple of buttons away. So you can dip your toe in ranked, and get used to it. Then I’d say you’re looking to progress to game battles, the most important thing there is to find three friends who are up for that commitment with you.
You want to make sure that they’re up for that grind as well and grind in a positive way. And really, that’s the key bit, if you find that with your friends you’re being successful, and you’re competing, but you’re still standing out, eventually our structure should be that someone’s gonna go “that guy is pretty good” or “that girl is pretty good”, and could we give them an opportunity to come to a global open and try their hand offline. I think that’s the path, but my first thing would be find some friends who you’re going to have a good time with, you’re willing to play every night with, you can communicate well with, and then you go from there.
In this modern day I seem to have this conversation more often than not, what do you have to say to those who still don’t consider esports a valid arena?
I think there are enough of us that do consider it a valid arena where you can go enjoy yourself. You can go have a lovely weekend and do whatever you’re going to do for your passion; there are tens and hundreds of millions of people now who are into esports. I’ve been saying it a couple of times this weekend actually, but I do think these are the athletes of the 21st century.
I think things are changing and they’re moving on. Is it incredibly competitive? Yes. Do they have to dedicate themselves full-time, in a professional manner? Yes. Are they literally grasping for that tiny advantage in the competitive arena? Yes. There’s so much of it that has a parallel with traditional sports. Obviously, there’s bits that are different, it is with a video game, and it’s with a control pad in your hand. But there are links being established to physical well-being and the cognitive benefits. People are getting more scientific, they have coaches, and they have trainers. Some of these teams have cooks, making sure they’re eating properly. So, the comparisons and the things that are aligning are always growing, the things that keep it apart are pretty stable, and they haven’t changed over the last few years. I just think the gap is getting smaller and smaller.
I feel like Optic Gaming is heavily favored, any guesses on who you think will take home the title?
It’s pretty open still, but they’re looking good, not gonna lie. We know there’s plenty of good players out there, and plenty of good teams. Seeing as this is the first event after last year, and Optic are the current world champions, I think they’re the team to aim for. But I still think there are a few guys out there. And again, the hall of champions, there’s plenty of names there who are in the room competing right now. So you know, they’ve done it, they’ve won on the big stage before. It only takes for one team to slip up and make a couple of easy mistakes for that door to go wide open. So, I’m going to sit on the fence, but I’m sure it’s going to be a great finish to the weekend.