By: John Wahl
The eSports industry is huge. According to a recent article in Forbes, the audience for eSports is larger than that of HBO, ESPN, and Netflix… combined. And with over 380 million people attending events around the world in 2019, it has ballooned into a $10 billion industry.
Call of Duty is also huge. A new report by the NPD Group showed that 7 out of the 10 best selling video games of the past decade were Call of Duty titles and the most recent entry, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare, raked in more than $600 million in sales during its first 3 days of release. The popular franchise which started back in 2003 is showing no signs of slowing down.
The Mega Dads… are not particularly huge. But we do try very hard and our kids think we’re cool. So that counts for something.
All three of these things converged this past weekend, and with two out of three sporting very impressive numbers, it’s no surprise that there was quite a bit of hype surrounding the Call of Duty League Launch Weekend. 12 teams from 4 different countries gathered to show off their skills and begin their quest for the Call of Duty League Championship. We were lucky enough that our hometown team, The Minnesota R0KKR invited the Mega Dads down to The Armory in Minneapolis to check out opening weekend. So I took my blood pressure medication, put on one of my nicest sweaters, and headed downtown.
As one would expect from the Mega Dads, we spent the first 15 minutes of our visit to The Armory walking around the building trying to figure out how to get inside. To be clear, the PR representative for the team gave us very detailed instructions on how to get to the media entrance, but that didn’t stop us from wandering around the building like a pair of confused senior citizens. Once we did find our way inside we were treated to an impressive operation befitting of any major sporting event.
As we entered the arena, we were immediately impressed by the professional-looking setup. It’s clear that eSports is big business and they spared no expense when it came to making this a flashy affair. A giant screen hovered over the stage, showing off the action to the crowd of fans that was projected to reach 10,000 over the course of the weekend. The Armory was recently renovated when the Super Bowl was in town and it made for a great home for an event like the Call of Duty League. The lights were flashing, the music was thumping, and the crowd on-hand was clearly excited to see the best Call of Duty players in the world come together to face off.
Even though Adam and I have been playing Call of Duty since the original game came out back in the day, we’re pretty new to the world of eSports, so we tried our best to wrap our heads around how it all worked. Luckily for us, even if you don’t know the difference between a Search & Destroy and a Hardpoint match, the nature of Call of Duty makes it pretty easy to get into the action. Watching two teams shoot the crap out of each other is always entertaining even if you aren’t able to appreciate the intricacies of the strategies being used. And these kids were damn good at shooting the crap out of each other.
Speaking of the players, it was clear by watching the reactions from the audience that these guys are celebrities in the world of eSports. Any major sport lives or dies by the personalities of the athletes, and there were obviously some very popular faces on stage, with some garnering huge applause and others a wave of boos. It was fun to see the stars pump up the crowd, even if I didn’t know who was who. You had Phantomz, Blazt, Skrapz, and Shockz. I don’t know if it’s a league requirement to have the letter Z in your name, but it clearly seems to be recommended. There wasn’t a Gary or James to be seen. It also made the two us fairly sad when we realized that we were probably old enough to be the dads to any of the players on stage.
In between matches, you could go down to the lower level where there were a good amount of activities to keep you occupied. There was an old school arcade with games like Dig Dug and Crystal Castles, a VR station where we got to play a little Projects CARS 2, photo opportunities, and a very nice lady handing out free cans of Mountain Dew Game Fuel. I don’t know if you’ve had the pleasure of partaking in a can of Game Fuel but let me tell you this, they for some reason decided to reinvent how you open aluminum cans and it took me about 5 minutes to get into mine. Also, I haven’t slept a wink since I drank mine so apparently, it works!
When we returned to the main floor we watched the Paris Legion wipe the floor with the London Royal Ravens, and despite our disappointment of learning during the post-game interview that the star of the Legion is most definitely not french, it was still an incredibly entertaining match. It’s amazing to watch how fast these pro players can move around the map, running and gunning so fast that it was hard at times for us to keep up with what was going on. I don’t think I’ve ever had hand-eye coordination that good, but watching the matches on stage really made me want to jump into some Call of Duty again, even though I know how hard I’m going to suck at it.
The event capped off with the Minnesota R0KKR defeating their rivals, the Toronto Ultra in an exciting 3-1 victory, becoming only one of four teams to go undefeated over the course of the weekend. From here, the 12 teams will travel around the world, with each team getting to host 2 competitions on their home turf. It’s really cool having a home team to root for in eSports, something I’d like to see other leagues adopt. It definitely adds to the excitement, especially when they’re playing at home.
Coming into the weekend I honestly didn’t know what to expect. The world of eSports has never particularly been my scene, but I found it highly entertaining and very easy to get wrapped up in all of the excitement. I even found myself watching the matches on YouTube when I wasn’t at The Armory, which for me is a sign that they have a great product.
So thank you to the Minnesota R0KKR for inviting us to your home opener and congratulations on a successful debut weekend. We’ll be watching and cheering you on as you continue your quest for the Call of Duty League Championship.