Esports Arena: 'Call of Duty' League Returns With Online Events

Call of Duty League - Publicity - H 2020
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Elsewhere in competitive gaming: Riot Games' new first-person shooter 'VALORANT' off to hot start on Twitch; High School Esports League expands globally; and 'Overwatch' pro's contract is terminated by Boston team amid sexual misconduct allegations.

Esports Arena is a curated weekly roundup of the biggest stories in the world of online competitive gaming.

The Call of Duty League has announced it will be returning in an online format this weekend. Matches will continue to follow the mini-tournament format last seen during the Los Angeles Home Series won by the Dallas Empire on March 7-8. The league will then run a new mini-tournament every two weeks until July 10, when weekly tournaments will begin for the remaining three weeks of the schedule. 

The new schedule will mark the first time Call of Duty League will compete on Fridays instead of only Saturday and Sunday. 

“We are seeing a great groundswell of support for being able to deliver this type of entertainment piece,” Call of Duty League C=commissioner Johanna Faries tells The Hollywood Reporter. “We have a great swath of partners that have been with us since we started, and they’ve been great in collaborating with us to make sure the shift to the online format is as seamless and top-quality as possible."

Faries also confirmed that the CODCaster broadcast technology used for league matches has been ported over for the online experience. "When fans are tuning into the live match experience, it will look and feel very similar to our previous broadcast format,” she says. The celebrity Hype Battles featured at previous Call of Duty League live events will also be included in some form, but those details are still being finalized.

“We continue to expect influencers and celebrities to be a part of the CDL experience,” Faries says. “How that looks, how we deliver on Hype Battles or other ways for our influencer community to be involved is still to be determined.”

The first match of the new online format will see the Seattle Surge take on the Paris Legion on April 10 at 1 p.m. PT. 

Here’s what else is happening in the world of esports.

High School Esports League expands globally, debuts coronavirus fundraiser

High School Esports League has announced the launch of Generation Esports, a new initiative focusing on the global gaming community. Generation Esports plans to “expand the original charter of HSEL beyond a purely national high school focus, to positively impact a diverse set of communities across the globe.” A new league, the Middle School Esports League, has also been created and will bring the HSEL experience to the middle school level starting this fall. 

Generation Esports will also host the “Social Distancing Cup,” a four-week-long tournament that will raise funds for those affected by COVID-19. The tournament, which will feature “a growing list of notable esports and gaming hardware partners including ASUS and Midwest Esports,” will feature a $30,000 prize pool across three games — League of Legends, Rocket League and Teamfight Tactics — with open enrollment beginning April 10. 

Riot Games’ VALORANT beta reaches 1.1M Twitch viewers in first hour 

The next multiplayer offering from League of Legends creator Riot Games, first-person shooter VALORANT, bowed in beta on Tuesday morning and reached over 1 million viewers on Twitch within the first 45 minutes of its launch. The beta is available to players in five countries, with more to be added later, and codes can be earned by players who watch Twitch streams of the game. Viewership remained high throughout the day, and by the afternoon, the game was challenging Fortnite and League of Legends for the most concurrent viewers on Twitch at one time, peaking at 1.7 million across the platform. 

Overwatch League player cut from Boston squad following sexual misconduct allegations

Overwatch League player Walid “Mouffin” Bassal has been released by his team, the Boston Uprising, after allegations of sexual misconduct surfaced. Bassal was benched by the team on March 28 after Twitch streamer KhaleesiBB first brought allegations against him, but this week the team said it has terminated his contract. Bassal addressed the allegations via Twitter, saying he plans to “talk to a therapist about past trauma, go back to schooling, [and] get the help that [he] need[s].”

When asked for comment on the situation an Overwatch League spokesperson told THR, “We are aware of the allegations made against Mouffin. The league takes allegations of this nature very seriously and an investigation is ongoing. We won't be commenting further until the process is concluded.”

The Boston Uprising’s next match is scheduled for online play Saturday, April 11, against the Houston Outlaws.

Smash Bros. Ultimate development team moves to work-from-home model

After announcing the next downloadable character for Super Smash Bros Ultimate will hail from Nintendo’s ARMS series, game director Masahiro Sakurai has announced that he and his team will be moving to a work-from-home format for the foreseeable future due to concerns over the COVID-19 pandemic. Sakurai announced the move on Twitter, saying (translated here): “Ultimate is a very high-security project, which makes it difficult to take it out (and work). However, we have no choice but to do it.” The downloadable character from ARMS was announced to be fully revealed and released in June 2020, but there has been no word yet if the team’s move to work from home will affect that window.

Toronto minor league Overwatch team dissolved

The Overwatch League’s Toronto Defiant has dissolved its minor league team, the Montreal Rebellion of the Overwatch Contenders league. The move comes amid concerns over the COVID-19 pandemic, as main tank player Seb “numlocked” Barton confirmed via Twitter he was being released “ due to fighting costs with the ongoing COVID crisis.” The Rebellion join the Philadelphia Fusion’s Fusion University and Atlanta Reign‘s Atlanta Academy as minor league Overwatch teams that have been forced to disband.