Call of Duty League Moves to 4v4 Format for Cold War – EsportsTalk

Dustin Steiner
in Call of Duty | Aug, 31st 2020

The Dallas Empire grabbed the inaugural Call of Duty League championship over the weekend, and the League is wasting absolutely no time at all in deciding what the future will look like. It seems that the League will be shrinking its rosters to fit in with the upcoming Call of Duty Cold War, focusing instead on a 4v4 format instead of a 5v5 one. This is the first time in two years that this has been done, as Modern Warfare focused on five-man rosters, and is being called a “return to CoD’s roots.”

This return to form for Call of Duty esports harkens back to an age that’s long-since past for Call of Duty, and could have both some challenges and benefits for teams as they move forward in a post-COVID world. 

Why Is Call of Duty Reducing Their Roster Sizes?

This announcement had been hinted at for some time, but only finally confirmed today. 

“With a new season comes new announcements across many fronts,” Call of Duty League commissioner Johanna Faries said in an announcement. “Today we shared that we will be transitioning to starting roster sizes of four players per team for Season 2, marking a kind of ‘return to our roots’. This decision was made in close collaboration with our teams and players, and it was not made lightly. We know that this transition also brings new implications for both pro and amateur players with rostermania season fast approaching.”

With Cold War and a new era of Call of Duty coming, this does raise some interesting questions for franchises. Namely, what will they do with their rosters that were built around the idea of 5v5 Call of Duty? Will they just keep their rosters and bench one player? Or will this be yet another busy year for the Call of Duty rostermania? One of the benefits of franchising was supposed to be to give players further stability and protection from just being dropped at the end of the season, but it appears that with the shift in games and competitive modes, that’s not being upheld here.

It also offers an interesting case study for what the League will do when the titles shift. Unlike Overwatch League, League of Legends, or just about any other competitive game, Call of Duty tends to change with each and every title that’s released on a yearly basis. The teams, as ever, will be the same, but the game played, the rosters, and even the League’s bylaws appear to be completely at the mercy of Activision’s unyilelding software cycle. Can a franchised League really stand up to such rigors?

This could be a good way to see how Activision Blizzard esports will transition Overwatch League from Overwatch to Overwatch 2, especially with new map modes, heroes, and more on the way. 

What Are Some Concerns for Players?

The biggest concern in transferring to 4v4 for Call of Duty League players at this point has to be “Will I have a job when the new season rolls around?” With each team reducing their active rosters to 4 from 5, this means that there will be 12 less starting slots in the League. That means less pay for players that are designated to be bench players, and even the possibility of the League reducing minimum roster sizes to account for this.

With teams currently reeling from the lack of live events being played (generating less income from ticket sales, merchandising, and hosting their own events generally) it’s entirely possible that these organizations will be looking to save money. With one less player they’re forced to have on their roster, that’s at the very least the League minimum of $50,000, plus benefits, each team could potentially save. At a time when the economy is in a record downturn, this is something that savvy team owners have to be keeping in mind – and it might not be worth having a content creator active on a roster in this case. 

Some teams, like the Toronto Ultra, are already running an extremely deep bench. It’s unclear what the League will do to maximum team sizes, as well, which could mean the development programs that these teams already started could have to be reworked, simply because the League is shifting its rules. It’s a moving of the goal posts that, even though the League says the teams and players were involved in the decision making process, feels unfair. 

What Happens to Veterans in a 4v4 Structure?

From the team perspective, there has been a lot of debate about what would be better. While Call of Duty League teams save money with a 4v4 format, this means that veteran players could get the short end of the stick, despite having put years, blood, sweat, and tears into building the game and community that they love. 

“I’ve refused to talk about it before it was announced because I didn’t want to throw any gas on something that may or may not have been,” Hector “H3CZ” Rodriguez said on the NRG Duo Podcast. “This whole franchising thing threw the entire Call of Duty community into a swirl. We went from having a shit ton of players to having 60 starters only, for 12 teams. Which means there are starters out there that are on the bench or not starting at all.”

H3CZ went on to talk about a problem that’s almost as old as time – the idea that as you make more money, you’re more likely to be replaced eventually as younger, stronger players come into the league that don’t require the big numbers yet, but can get the same or better results.

“Such up and coming talent, you point at Awakening, Howl, etc – they just got picked up by Optic and are performing insanely well. You look at that and go “okay – what happens to the veterans that still have a place right now?” It sort of gets enhanced – it’s a dog eat dog world out there. This Call of Duty League is a league of friendships, to some extent, but people do get held accountable for their performance. I get worried for veterans that have high salary that didn’t perform this year. Then you have these up and comers that can get you championships but they don’t cost as much as the people with the large followings. There’s 12 less spots at minimum – I know my team’s safe and good. I want to know what happens, but I don’t want to experience it.”

Despite H3CZ admitting that “Call of Duty was always meant to be played in a 4v4 setting” a lot of team infrastructure at present is built around the idea of having 5 man teams. From the roster sizes of 7-10 players, the rules were built around having a 5 man active roster. All of that flies out the window potentially with 4v4, and it seems like such a massive shift for the teams. What happens if Activision decides that, next year, they want to go back to five man rosters? Seems like whiplash at the very least for the teams and downright disastrous from a team infrastructure perspective – especially in having the support staff to run such a team and having to switch that back and forth every year. 

More news on the CDL’s plans are expected to be announced as we head into the offseason and after the CDL All-Star Game, which is scheduled for September 12-13. 

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