The Call of Duty League, the esports league for competitive players of Activision Blizzard’s Call of Duty video game, has returned to live tournaments after the pandemic, as lockdown protocols lift and vaccinations ramp up.
Through June 20, fans and pro players gathered at the esports stadium in Arlington, Texas to compete for a $500,000 prize. The tournament adhered to social distancing measures by hosting teams in private bubbles.
Kristin Connelly, VP of global brand marketing at Activision Blizzard Esports said the return to a live event only adds to gaming’s momentum.
“We were really fortunate to be able to advance our broadcast technology this past year online, which allowed us to carry out all of our competitive matches,” Connelly said. “Now, there are less technical hurdles that we have to overcome when we get back to [in-person events].”
Gaming has boomed in the last year as people sought ways to stay entertained and connected throughout the pandemic. While traditional sports viewership for leagues such as the MLB and NBA declined, the Call of Duty League live average viewership rose nearly 50% over opening weekend from last year’s event.
Though some have speculated gaming participation to decline as people venture back outdoors, live esports events are actually expected to attract more fans, Connelly said.
“Although the world is starting to get back to normal, you can watch esports easily on your mobile device, so it doesn't matter if you're home or if you're out and about,” she said.
She added that the return to live tournaments may, in fact, increase the popularity of gaming overall, as nothing can replicate in-person live experiences people are missing.
“There is just electricity in the venue,” Connelly added.
To promote the event, Activision Blizzard released several spots depicting awkward in-person social moments with the catchphrase “it’s been a while.”