Call of Duty Esports General Manager, Daniel Tsay, told The Rotation about how vital the Challengers system is.

The Challengers scene is the second-tier of competitive Call of Duty competitive. Players who play at that level have fed into the league consistently since the franchised era began in 2019.

Tsay told us: “I think Challengers is clearly powering the talent that rises up to the pro level.

“The amount of talent that’s coming into the scene, both at the beginning of the season and then within the season, you see all these players getting picked up from a league.

“It really is this great path to pro that we rely on. In Toronto, there are two teams that won Elite Stage 3. They’re they’re doing a great job scouting, I think that’s going to pay dividends.”

Learning from the Pro-Am

For the first time since the league was franchised, AM teams had the chance to play against pros at the Pro-Am.

The format left certain players frustrated with outcomes, with Ultra’s NA Academy missing out on the bracket stage of the tournament on a tiebreaker.

Daniel Tsay said: “I think we took a really good step this year. For the first time in the past three years, we’ve had that direct opportunity for the AMs to play alongside the pros.

“We had a lot of great learnings from it. There was a great feedback session with our teams and how we can improve upon it. We didn’t decide to do it next year or not.

“I think one of the biggest things that I would say as part of our Challenges team as a whole, but particularly for the Pro-Am is that we want to highlight the AM’s more, give them more airtime, and even when it comes to something like the main broadcast, giving them some more opportunities there.

“So I think overall, absolutely, we have tweaks in mind, but it really is how can we highlight the biggest players.”

Pro-Am feedback

Teams have been given the chance to feed back to the league how they felt about the Pro-Am.

According to Tsay, he was shocked that the players enjoyed the chance to play against the AMs.

He said: “We’re always open to feedback and thinking about how we can optimise and do things better.

“It was our first crack at it. It was an awesome event, we loved the event.

“I think our teams and our players loved the event. I was surprised they loved playing against the AMs and they thought that that was really important to the path to pro process.”

Another criticism was that the tournament featured just a single elimination bracket following the group stage.

“So now if you want to talk about how we can maybe modify the groups, whether it’s single elimination, double elimination, like that’s all stuff that we’re going to discuss with our teams as we continue to optimise the product.”

The concept of returning to big-scale open-bracket style competition is an interesting one. One that many fans would love to see.

Tsay added: “That was certainly a model that has been used in the past. And certainly, I would say it’s under evaluation. Can’t really say that we’re going one way or the other. But obviously, that’s been done in the past.”

Layers to competition

Part of the strategy involving Challengers players is to establish layers to the competition that they have.

This starts right at the floor-level with ranked play as part of the game product, according to Tsay.

He told us: “I would say, you know, ranked means a lot. Having that in the game and having the ability to play on our CDL settings and all that.

“So it starts with that base in game. For us the cups provide a lot of opportunities for all the different AMs that want to start beginning and testing if they’re, they have what it takes.

“I think the results speak for themselves. When you look at the sheer quantity of Challenger players in this league. We have 48 starters. A good portion of them came from the Challenger scene.”

Photo via Charlie Cater

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