This past week has been littered with controversy in the Call of Duty community, with TCM announcing their moving to North America and the fallout from that in terms of Aware players and the state of the European scene. But despite the fact that I’m very much a European COD advocate and highly interested in the business that goes on behind the scenes in Call of Duty, that was by far the least interesting turn of events for me personally. The announcement on Monday 11th that the new DLC map Drift would be appearing in the Call of Duty championships at the end of the month instead of Recovery was much more intriguing, as well as the following announcement from MLG that they would be adding the tournament to their map pool. It not only means that games will now have a highly unknown factor in a tournament already laden with unknown quantities, but it also instigates what could be a highly influential precedent as COD continues its battle to reach the mainstream.
The idea of having DLC maps in the pool for previous games has often been discussed, either due to a lack of suitable maps out of the box or a way to make tournaments more interesting. Despite this we have only seen a very small number of small tournaments use them and in general the idea has never come to anything. This has only served to compound the surprised nature of the community when it was announced Drift would be entering the map pool for COD championships.
It is very clear that the decision comes from the top in Activision, MLG were quoted as saying they were not initially consulted in the decision, and with Drift signalling the removal of Recovery SND, which up to this point seems to have been one of the maps with the least contention in the community. Videos emerged of awful spawns and many people were shocked that an announcement as drastic as the introduction of a new map, and one that had not been thoroughly tested could be brought in so close to what is undoubtedly the biggest tournament in the Call of Duty Calendar.
The motivation for adding Drift to the map pool goes without saying for Activision, as with most things money talks. COD Champs is first and foremost a platform to showcase their game, but the fact that now MLG have also added the map to their map pool, and that they are more interested in the money generated than the integrity of the competition raises some interesting questions.
Does the adding of DLC to the COD champs pool mean a move to a map pool where maps are added and taken away depending on releases, such as with CS:GO (where admittedly the added maps are normally just re-made old maps) and will this serve to divide the community, with the have maps and the have box or will we all just have to accept the £15 tax of being interested in Call of Duty to a further extent than just the base game in public matches. There is no doubt that competitive gamers already spend big on peripherals and tournament entries so should we just accept it? Or will the drive to get more people picking up their controllers and getting into tournaments be partially thwarted by a newly created barrier to entry that wouldn’t otherwise be there?
The other major question it brings up is the question of whether Activision really want the game to be as competitive as possible, or does it all just boil down to as much money as quick as possible and are they willing to risk damaging the competitive scene in hope of making a quick buck, instead of nurturing the scene and hoping it becomes an integral part of their marketing strategy as has been so successful with PC games such as League of Legends and CS:GO. Overall the most shocking fact seems to be that this change was made without deliberation from either pro players or MLG, who knows, if Activision continue to think it knows best it could be a dangerous few years for COD competitive.