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Call of Duty Warzone: Does UK esports scene need more live events?

Three young men celebrate winning the World Series of Warzone global final. They show off the competition trophy - a golden skull, with a crown, on a tripod. One of the men also holds a gold plaque with "World Series of Warzone: 2023 Champion" written on it.
Team Biffle, who are based in the US, dominated the World Series of Warzone global final

The World Series of Warzone (WSOW) held its global final in London over the weekend, and it came at an interesting time for the UK esports scene.

Earlier this month, the Call of Duty League team London Royal Ravens announced it was moving to the United States - leaving Britain without a dedicated team.

But if you watched the WSOW final, based on the battle royale offshoot of the first-person shooter, you would think the UK esports scene was doing pretty well.

It drew a crowd of about 3,000 people, competitors from across the world and huge numbers tuned in to watch the event online.

BBC Newsbeat spoke to Call of Duty esports bosses Daniel Tsay and Rob Belk about their decision to hold the event in London.

Product manager Rob said previous experience told them the crowd's "hype and energy" would be "off the charts".

"People are going to be cheering, people are going to be standing up."

And general manager Daniel said one of the top requests from the Call of Duty community has been for a UK event.

"So when the team were thinking 'where can we go?' London came fairly organically to the top of the list," he said.

"We hadn't been here in four years. It's one of the things that the Call of Duty community is craving the most."

In the end, the event was dominated by teams from outside the UK and Europe, with the $100,000 prize (£80,716) going to US-based Team Biffle.

But what do players think about the state of the UK esports scene?

Kels stood smiling for the camera with the arena bathed in the purple glow of stage lights behind her in the background. She has long blonde hair worn down and a ringed piercing in her nose and right ear. She is wearing a black top with a multicoloured flowery patterned shirt over the top of it.
Call of Duty pro Kels says events are a great way to get people together

Kelsie Grieg, also known as Kels, was the first woman to qualify for the Call of Duty Challengers Elite tournament.

Speaking to Newsbeat at the tournament which she'd come to watch, Kels says it was "upsetting" for the scene to lose its one UK franchise.

But she thinks the event shows there's still appetite for esports in the UK.

"We're all at the event right now, we've seen the crowds, we hear the crowds there. So potentially esports is still growing in the UK and Europe.

"It brings everyone together. Everyone's playing the game, everyone loves the game.

"And it's like, you will have the same passion. It brings everyone together, it really does."

'It brings a crowd'

British gamer Jukeyz, from Liverpool, actually competed in the WSOW final - his team finished 10th on the day.

But he thinks the reason for the lack of a UK franchise is simple - they haven't been "up to the standard" of North American teams.

"Like there's the teams all based in America, all the good teams, the best teams," he says.

"Obviously we had London Ravens for a few years, but even then we couldn't really match up to the Americans.

"Hopefully it changes in the next couple of years, to have more teams [and] more organisations get involved."

An arena bathed in the purple glow of stage lights. It's set up for a gaming contest - we can see enclosures for each team surrounding a large - Jumbotron-sized - screen showing footage from a round of Call of Duty.
The event was held at the Copper Box Arena in Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in London

Jukeyz thinks staging events like the WSOW global final in the UK are a good way to boost interest in esports.

He checked the event's main stream during the contest and says he saw 100,000 viewers logged on - with more likely to be watching on other channels.

"I think if they just kept doing events like this, not only is it amazing for me because I don't have to get a flight, it brings a crowd," he says.

"I've got mates at home that don't play CoD, don't watch CoD, that were tuned in today.

"If you get even just a few friends, just get an interest it could roll like that, especially in the UK."

And for Kels, who's been hailed as a trailblazer for women in esports, there's another bonus to holding in-person events - meeting fans and the possible next generation of competitors.

"I remember the first person that came up to me and I was like 'am I being mocked?'" she says.

"But it's incredible. People are like 'we look up to you and what you do for females is incredible, you're giving us the confidence, you're inspiring us'.

"And that means more than anything to me. That's the main thing."


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