Call of Duty: Black Ops II might be the biggest game of the year, but it’s still taking major cues from League of Legends.
“ESports is a super important initiative for Call of Duty: Black Ops II,” according to David Vonderhaar, game design director at developer Treyarch, speaking to Forbes Magazine. “It starts with us with what we call sport, or League Play. That’s Call of Duty as a sport, but that’s really just the start.”
League Play? Well, if you’re going to look for inspiration, League of Legends is definitely a good place to start. When developer Riot Games created their own online battle arena in LoL, they built it around the idea of broadcasting league tournaments. Two high-rated seasons later, Legends stands as one of the top multiplayer games around.
Opportunities for passive participation keep players actively engaged with a game, even when the aren’t playing. “We have a feature that we call CODcasting.” says Vonderhaar. “Once you have the production and you have the sport, you have to have a way to get it to everybody. For us that’s the live streaming feature.”
When League of Legends implemented a somewhat similar feature (Spectator mode), daily gameplay hours climbed significantly.
By keeping the community engaged both inside and outside the game itself — a key tenant of Community as a Service — Riot Games sees significant benefit from eSports in general and enabling players and potential players to watch the game in action. That translates not just to player re-engagement (up 12% on average after popular eSports events), but significant new user acquisition as well (up 10% after events).
Treyarch want to generate numbers like that for Black Ops II, keeping players invested in the game between downloadable product launches. “Live streaming allows you to simply broadcast your game to the Internet through the YouTube channel,” says Vonderhaar. “Basically, anybody can come and watch and actually play that game.”
And to judge by League of Legends’ example, they do come and watch — in droves. And then they stay. Considering that COD is by far the biggest first-person shooter franchise out there, it makes sense that Activision is finally fully embracing eSports as a way to take the franchise to the next level. It’ll be interesting to see how the competitive community adapts to a game franchise with yearly updates — being able to see how the best players play and learn from them becomes that much more important when there’s new content, maps, and challenges that have to be mastered each year.
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