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CDL GM Daniel Tsay: “Everyone is happy with the results right now.” cover image

CDL GM Daniel Tsay: “Everyone is happy with the results right now.”

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CDL GM Daniel Tsay is very pleased with the start of the CDL 2023 season and is looking forward to what the Major 1 tournament will offer.

Call of Duty League General Manager Daniel Tsay has expressed how happy he is with the record-breaking start to the 2023 CDL season.
The main stream for Opening Weekend itself drew 160,000 at its peak. That came during OpTic Texas' match against Florida Mutineers.
Daniel Tsay was formerly part of the NBA 2K League. Photo via NBA2KLeague.
Daniel Tsay was formerly part of the NBA 2K League. Photo via NBA2KLeague.
"The whole team is proud about it," Tsay told Esports.gg. "We are super grateful for all of the fans that tuned in. For me, I’m super happy, but my stomach is still butterflies about how we can keep it going. There is still so much season to go.
"The very next day, we had to think about our strategy and reassess how we — I will say, we positioned ourselves really well. For many months, we thought that CoD 2.0 was going to be big.
"We want to take over as a franchise. I’m waiting with bated breath, but I’m proud of the work that has come to fruition this weekend."

Move to Twitch

Part of the reason for the CDL's success across Opening Weekend was the move to Twitch. The league was available to watch on the streaming platform for the first time since franchising came into play and the move looks to have really paid off.
The CDL is on Twitch for the first time since franchising. Screenshot via Esports.gg.
The CDL is on Twitch for the first time since franchising. Screenshot via Esports.gg.
Viewership for Opening Weekend surpassed all but two LAN events from the Vanguard season and set a new record for non-Major viewership in the CDL. The move to Twitch means that live broadcasting is no longer available on YouTube.
"So we’re starting our season on Call of Duty’s Twitch channel as well as Call of Duty League’s website," Tsay reiterated. "We’re happy with where we are at now and that turned into record-breaking opening weekend viewership. We’re always looking to distribute our content wherever it is best for our community.
"[Twitch] is a channel that has been good for us. We are happy to have been [able to] distribute our product on that channel over our opening weekend."

"ZooMaa puts a lot of blood, sweat and tears into covering competitive Call of Duty"

One of the biggest reasons CDL can benefit from Twitch is how easy it is to discover new channels on the app. "People do say that about Twitch," Tsay confirmed. "It definitely had a part to play in that. We are pretty happy with the amount of reach that we had. On my end, to see the categories and just see us just after Just Chatting was really unique to see."
For the first time in the CDL era, Twitch streamers were able to co-stream the action with all of the action available for everyone to see on screen. Thomas "ZooMaa" Paparatto was the most popular of those streams, getting up to 20,000 viewers himself.
ZooMaa was able to co-stream the CDL action for the first time. Screenshot via Esports.gg.
ZooMaa was able to co-stream the CDL action for the first time. Screenshot via Esports.gg.
"It was really cool to see ZooMaa’s watch party. Some of the players were doing it as well," Tsay added. "You bring in the community, and ZooMaa puts a lot of blood, sweat and tears into covering competitive Call of Duty so it’s good to have these opportunities that he can take advantage of so it’s mutually beneficial."

OpTic versus ROKKR situation

Of everything to happen during Opening Weekend, there is one thing that sticks out as being against the positive current. That is OpTic Texas' unfortunate forfeit loss to the Minnesota ROKKR.
After Cameron "Cammy" McKilligan accidentally caused a game to crash by using the SAE killstreak, the teams were ordered to replay, even with OpTic seemingly in a prime position to take the win. Texas stood their ground and forfeited the entire match because they believed that they shouldn't have had to replay.
"It was an unfortunate situation," CDL GM Daniel Tsay said. No one felt happy about it. No one wants a game to end like that, especially not on our opening weekend. I’m sad for ROKKR, I’m sad for OpTic and I’m sad for the league.
"At the end of the day, it’s league rules that we had to apply. What we said on stream in terms of explaining what happened and the ruling, we feel really good about that. We followed league rules and we feel good about that."

A new problem

It was a predicament that the league has never really faced before. Usually, teams had just taken the replay and gotten on with things.
The majority of fans support OpTic in their decision to forfeit the match to take a stand against the situation. The biggest criticism is the fact that it took nearly an hour and a half to come to the conclusion of the saga.
The CDL hosts huge events with thousands of spectators. This was the crowd during the Major 3 event in Toronto. Photo via Toronto Ultra.
The CDL hosts huge events with thousands of spectators. This was the crowd during the Major 3 event in Toronto. Photo via Toronto Ultra.
"Everyone can say that it was an unprecedented and unique situation," Tsay added. "Everyone on the league side would not want to see a forfeit happen so we had to make sure it's what the team wants to do.
"When I was chatting with the team today, we were timestamping how everything happened. They are natural kinks that need to be worked out and I am confident that we will get there."

"There are more talented players than there are spots in the league"

The competition in the CDL is feistier than ever. Teams are closer to each other than ever before and that was evident in the first week of matches.
The season started earlier than ever. Photo via Activision.
The season started earlier than ever. Photo via Activision.
"Even last year, you started to see the competitive parity in our league," Tsay said. "People are becoming better and better. There are more talented players than there are spots in the league. There are changes on the game side that give more competitive parity.
"Another interesting element that I enjoy is that, by us giving an earlier start, there is a development with the teams. Teams are still learning the game, and I think that is a skill gap. It’s all about which teams can gel on and off the court the fastest. It's a unique element that will develop across the season."
Last season, the only team to win more than one event was the LA Thieves, and that was the last two events of the year. This time around, teams are already causing shocks.
London Royal Ravens have already surprised people by being undefeated after the Major 1 Opening Weekend. Most people had them ranked bottom of hypothetical power rankings.
"When a viewer knows what is going to happen, they are not inclined to tune in," Tsay added. "You are watching what you expect to happen or to play out.
"Did any of us think that London Royal Ravens were going to be top three and undefeated at this point? The answer to that is 'no,' according to the coaches' poll. Boston has been performing really well. There has only been two games, but there are definitely a couple of standouts."

Raleigh Major 1 tournament

For the first time in CDL history, the league is off to Raleigh, North Carolina. The CDL is using the Raleigh Convention Center to host the first Major event of the season. Unlike previous events, there is no CDL team affiliated with the city.
"I don’t consider it a hard and fast rule that we only go to cities where our teams are," GM Tsay said. "We want to go to cities where we see good opportunities to be meeting our fans.
"Raleigh is becoming a pretty big esports hub. A number of other esports are having big events there. The city will do a great job welcoming people for the Major.
"The venue is perfect and fell into our lap. Sometimes, we take the luck and we have a great venue for the number of CoD activities that are happening that weekend."

"It's going to be crazy"

There will be four events running side-by-side in Raleigh. The Major 1 tournament, the C.O.D.E. Bowl in Warzone, the Challengers Open and the 2022 Call of Duty Mobile World Championships.
"A lot of thoughtful planning went into the event," Tsay added. "We want to make sure that every event has its moment to shine. There aren’t many times when things are overlapping. Sometimes it happens, but I think when you come to Raleigh if you want to see the first-ever LAN C.O.D.E. bowl, you can."
Raleigh Convention Center, home to CDL Major 1. Photo via Raleigh Convention Center.
Raleigh Convention Center, home to CDL Major 1. Photo via Raleigh Convention Center.
This could be the start of Major events looking a bit different to just having a straight-up competition at them. A festival atmosphere is a goal for the CDL in Raleigh.
"It's going to be crazy," Tsay continued. "The other element to that is that it is different to the other Majors. That’s one thing that I would like to do more of as we progress through the years with the CDL.
"We want to see how we can make each Major look different. I think we are making those steps to make people care and make them want to tune into Majors."

Pro-Am format

The Pro-Am will be a different kind of format to normal CDL Majors. Four amateur teams will contest against the Pro teams in pool play on Friday.
The format of the Pro-Am Play-In tournament. Image via Activision.
The format of the Pro-Am Play-In tournament. Image via Activision.
In the Vanguard season, there was another pro-am and no amateur teams featured on the main stream for the event. There is no guarantee that they will be in Raleigh, either. There will be four streams available and every match will be there for people to watch. All four streams will also be casted this time around, which wasn't the case last time.
"I don’t know if we have worked out the broadcast schedule," Tsay told us. "That’s still something to be done. Last year it was very intentional [to not have Challengers on the main stream] because not every one of our Call of Duty League teams could make it onto main stream.
"If not all 12 of our franchises can be on Alpha, we can’t put a Challenger team on it. That was the rationale as to why it happened that way last year."

Amateur excitement

Of the eight teams that have made it to the Pro-Am Play-In, Tsay is most excited to see the team affiliated with the professional league.
LAG's Academy team, playing in the Pro-Am. Photo via Los Angeles Guerrillas.
LAG's Academy team, playing in the Pro-Am. Photo via Los Angeles Guerrillas.
"It's a cheesy answer, but I love that ROKKR and LAG have invested," he said. "Boston has as well, but ROKKR and LAG are in the Pro-Am qualifiers. That leads me to be interested in their success and see how well they do. It’s always good to see our CDL teams take a more vested interest in the ecosystem and we’ll see how that goes. I would point to those two."

Supporting every region

All eight of the Play-In teams will be flown to Raleigh to play in the eight-team qualifier event the day before actual action gets underway. It's important, according to CDL GM Daniel Tsay, that every region is supported.
"I think we took it a step further with eight teams getting supported and flown into Raleigh to play on LAN to determine the best four," he said. "It’s important to us that all regions that have that pathway in. We want to make sure that we are growing all regions. Not only are they getting a great opportunity in the Pro-Am, but the way we’ve qualified the players is something really great, too.
Call of Duty's Major 1 tournament runs from Dec. 14-18 at the Raleigh Convention Center.

Stay tuned to Esports.gg for all the latest Call of Duty League news.
Ant Stonelake
Ant Stonelake
Contributor | Twitter @itsjustantnow
Doubling as a football (soccer) journalist following EFL League Two club Tranmere Rovers, Ant has a long-standing passion for gaming. That, combined with the drive to create content in the esports space led to the creation of The Rotation, a Call of Duty news platform.