In-person Call of Duty esports are returning after more than a year of virtual events, although it's not quite a return to the pre-pandemic state of affairs. Organizers have revealed that Call of Duty League will hold a face-to-face competition between June 17th and June 20th, when the Major IV tournament starts in Arlington, Texas. Don't expect throngs of fans, though. Only teams and "limited League staff" will be present, and they'll follow rigid protocols to ensure safety for everyone there.
Supporters will have to watch at home on YouTube. A virtual-only Major III tourney kicks off May 13th.
This isn't the first big game franchise to announce a return to physical competition. Valorant's VCT Masters Stage 2 takes place in Reykjavik starting May 24th, and the Overwatch League is bringing back live events in China starting June 4th. Call of Duty League appears to be the first large esports outfit to revive real-world competition in the US, though.
There's bound to be a certain amount of risk. While many Americans have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, that's not true for all — and any international visitors are another matter. It's not surprising that esports leagues would be eager to resurrect in-person competition, however. The personal connections and reduced lag can help teams coordinate, and physical tourneys are alluring in part for watching the emotional roller coasters on players' faces. Call of Duty League's operators are clearly willing to take a chance for that return to normalcy and the potential viewership boost that comes with it.