You may not know much about esports now, but that will soon change—and it's all thanks to Call of Duty, Infinity Ward Multiplayer Designer Joe Cecot told Complex.
The 2014 Call of Duty championship went down in Los Angeles over the weekend. In all 31 teams competed in Call of Duty: Ghosts for a prize pool totaling $1 million. Activision says that's the most money at stake in any eSports tournament.
Team CompLexity (no relation) came out on top overall and went home with $400,000. EnVyUs, OpTic Gaming, and Strictly Business all took home over $100,000 each. In other words, this shit is huge.
Cecot said Call of Duty's eSports presence gets bigger every year. The series has been present in Major League Gaming (MLG) tourneys for years, and this was the second annual standalone CoD championship.
"It's very rewarding, but it's also eye-opening, because these players play at this level that even some of our developers can't play at," Cecot said after the final round. "So we watch very closely. We watch how they move as a team. We watch how they use the maps, and the maps' layouts, and some of the things they use that we didn't even intend. I think it helps us, moving forward in our map design."
This year Infinity Ward added a special Oracle Mode for spectators that highlights players' opponents, even through walls, so viewers can anticipate the action before it happens. It's the sort of feature people like to argue about on Reddit; is it overused? Should they leave it on all the time? That sort of thing. Cecot seems to be in the latter camp.
"When the CODCasters turn it off I'm like, 'Oh no! Turn it back on! Turn it back on!'" he said. "Watching first-person shooters before this was a little bit dry, because you had to follow one player's view. You don't have a view of the whole field like you do with a football game or a baseball game."
"It's kind of like what kill cams did for first-person shooters when Call of Duty introduced those," he continued. "Because that accelerated the learning process. It's like, oh, I died—immediate feedback on how I died, what gun was he using, what attachments was he using, and what angle did he take on me—very similar to when you started seeing the hands of poker players and when that exploded."
Infinity Ward and Activision work with pro teams long after each annual Call of Duty release hits shelves, and a lot of the content a game ships with is never used in competitive play. "We eliminate a lot of kill streaks, some perks, some weapons that they feel are a little bit too powerful potentially or they create a style of play that the eSports community doesn't want," Cecot said.
But it's not just about what pro Call of Duty players want. This is bigger than that. "It's started to really explode," Cecot said. "You'll start seeing with Call of Duty what you're seeing with League of Legends and some of the other really big eSports games." He said more and more people who play video games or grew up playing them are realizing that they like to watch other people play, too. The Xbox One and PS4, with their Twitch integration and other streaming/viewing capabilities, are helping with this.
Will eSports ever really be mainstream in the same way that traditional sports are? "It's an interesting question. I can't predict the future," Cecot said. "I don't know if it will ever merge, where you'll see football back-to-back with Call of Duty or something like that, but I know there are a lot of people who play games who don't necessarily watch games but who may really, really enjoy it—they just don't know it yet."