The new esports-themed CoD DLC doesn't support esports
For $3.99, players can buy the Call of Duty Championship-themed pack, which includes a Golden Weapon Camo, three new reticles, a calling card and emblem layer, and a golden Championship exoskeleton and Championship helmet. Also included in the release is the option to buy more Create-a-Class slots for $1.99, which should allow players more flexibility in creating loadouts for ranked play.
It’s the first time a Call of Duty developer, this time Sledgehammer, has implemented an esports-themed DLC package. But esports fans are not sure just how much to support it—unlike companies like Valve and HiRez Studios, which use DLC earnings to fund esports prize pools, there’s no word on whether funds for the DLC will directly support esports, like by, for example, increasing the prize pool at the $1 million Call of Duty Championship next month starting on Mar. 27.Some fans believe supporting the DLC with no commitment of the earnings to esports is the way to go, since showing a high level of interest in an esports-themed DLC could lead to one. Other say Sledgehammer and Activision have “missed the point.”
Brian "Saintt" Baroska, a Call of Duty pro who advanced to the North American Regional Qualifier on Sunday, pointed out just how beneficial crowd funding can be and his disappointment Call of Duty developers seem apprehensive to embrace it.
One key difference between Call of Duty and games like Dota 2 and Smite, which used crowdfunding to host multi million dollar events, is their business model. Valve and HiRez Studios stand to make more money off promoting their game with a big blowout tournament than a company like Sledgehammer or especially Activision, which has a bigger stake in sales of next year’s Call of Duty title over promoting the current one.
Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, where DLC earnings fund a number of Valve-backed major tournament, may be a closer proxy for the Call of Duty model, but even then the differences between a yearly release and a more longer term model make the economics.
That’s ever the challenge for Call of Duty esports. The game franchise is so popular that a massive competitive scene is almost inevitable, but the yearly release schedule makes it difficult for tournament organizers and even the developers to figure out just how to support it. Of course, based off the rabid sales of crowd-funded esports initiatives in other games, it's conceivable the developers could make even more money while giving 50 percent of it to a prize pool.
Announcing that the current DLC will fund at least some increase in the Championships prize pool would set a promising precedent for Call of Duty esports. But with multiple shepherds of the Call of Duty franchise, precedents are surprisingly meaningless. Still, even the creation of any esports-themed DLC is a step in the right direction for a game whose fans have struggled to gain more esports acceptance over the years.
Image via Activision