For the first time ever, downloadable content will be required to compete in the Call of Duty Championship. The snowy map Drift, set in a Rocky Mountain ski resort, will enter the map rotation of the $1 million Championship on March 27-29.
It makes sense for Activision to promote their Havoc DLC pack, which costs $14.99, at the highest profile tournament of the year. Players who watch and see the map are certainly more likely to buy it, especially if it produces some exciting games. But from an esports view, it’s a controversial and questionable decision at best.
If the addition of Drift, which will replace two maps in the rotation, improved the map list, then it’d at least be a competitively justifiable move. But Bio Lab Capture the Flag and Recovery Search & Destroy, the two maps Drift will replace, are hardly the worst in the rotation. In fact, many pros feel Recovery is one of the best.
It’s also controversial to include DLC at all in any competitive event. It increases the barrier of entry, essentially putting a tax on playing professionally. It’s less than one month before the event, meaning that teams will have little chance to properly practice a new map.
Granted, some of those concerns are overblown. Players are usually averse to change. The cost really is minimal, especially in the demographic of hardcore players who are already more likely to buy things like the $50 Season Pass, which gives access to all DLCs. The map rotation could probably use some change, and in Call of Duty, that means DLC. But this wasn’t the right change to make or the right time to do it.
Activision could have made the included map free, for example, as they are rumored to have done in regions outside America and Europe. It’d still serve as an advertisement for DLC pack, assuming it looks good on the event stream. They could use sales of the DLC promoted through the tournament to support esports teams, similar to what Valve does with sticker sales at Counter-Strike: Global Offensive events. Heck, Activision even released an esports themed DLC—it just didn’t support esports.
As long as the inclusion of a new map improved the map rotation, it’d be a decent decision. But in this case, with some stronger maps like Recovery moving out for a new one that features random environmental elements like an avalanche, it’s hard to see that being the case.
The Havoc DLC pack is the first for Advanced Warfare, featuring four maps including Drift, a Zombie game mode, and new exosuit models. Released on Jan. 27, it costs $14.99 stand-alone, but is also included in the $50 season pass along with three other future DLCs.