Ranked (or competitive) play in Call of Duty has been around for a long time, but in the last couple of years (and over the course of the last couple of games), ranked play has turned into a robust mode with a strong competitive matchmaking system. However, a lot of people still don't play competitive in Call of Duty, so what's going on?
Not to worry, because in this article we're going to explain why ranked is getting better every year in Call of Duty, but it’s not enough.
Why Is Ranked Getting Better Every Year?
Looking back to Modern Warfare (2019), there wasn't much in the way of a ranked mode whatsoever, just a simple CDL playlist where you could play the maps and modes played in the CDL with similar restrictions. That was just about all there was.
In Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War, there was League Play. You'd play placement matches to find your skill division and then level up to earn different rewards as you matchmade with players of similar skill divisions. Then, you'd play new placement matches to see if your division changed. This was a relatively basic system that worked okay but wasn't great.
Call of Duty: Vanguard worked similarly to Cold War, but instead of just using skill divisions, there was also an actual SR/ELO system. You'd play placement matches to find your starting division/SR, and then as you won and lost different games, your ranking would go up and down accordingly. This was ultimately a more robust system than what was in Cold War.
In Modern Warfare II, there's a similar version of the Vanguard system. You have skill tiers split into SR ranges, and you start off at the lowest tier, Bronze, and work your way up as you win games. Of course, you'll unlock all kinds of rewards along the way, too. Plus, there are even cool safeguards built into the system, like nobody in a game losing SR if someone quits in the middle of a game, and not losing any SR for the first three games after moving up into a new skill division.
In general, ranked play in Call of Duty has been getting better and better since Modern Warfare (2019), but ranked play isn't seeing as much of an improvement in terms of popularity.
Why Aren't More People Playing Ranked?
You'd think that since ranked is getting more and more robust as a mode with each new game that it'd be exponentially more and more popular and mainstream, but that hasn't exactly been the case.
In Cold War, for example, the game itself was really well-suited to competitive play in terms of its maps, balance, and overall design, but the mode itself was lacking. It never felt like you could realistically climb a ladder, and the skill division you would be placed into oftentimes didn't make sense.
In Vanguard, the system was better, but the overall balance and design of the actual game was a lot weaker. As a result, Vanguard itself was considerably less popular than Black Ops Cold War or Modern Warfare (2019). Ultimately, this made the ranked mode in Vanguard not too successful.
In Modern Warfare II, the system is similar to Vanguard with some further upgrades, which is great, but Modern Warfare II has its own core balance and design problems that make it one of the least competitive Call of Duty games around, even if the actual ranked system is quite good. As a result, though, ranked play in Modern Warfare II might be fun, but it's not the mainstream hit, as a mode, that it could (or perhaps should) be.
All of this begs the question, will there be a Call of Duty with an excellent competitive system that actually manages to be a popular, mainstream hit with Call of Duty players in general?
The Future of Ranked in Call of Duty
If ranked play in Call of Duty is getting more and more love from the developer side, surely a Call of Duty game with the right kind of balance and design for a competitive scene to take off with is coming soon, right?
Well, maybe. In terms of 2023, it seems to be the case that we'll actually be seeing another full-fat Call of Duty game release, even though Modern Warfare II was originally planned to be the first two-year CoD. What's more is that the next Call of Duty is expected to be, unsurprisingly, quite similar to Modern Warfare II, so it seems unlikely the next game will have a competitive mode that ends up being a hit, considering what Modern Warfare II is like.
However, Treyarch's next Call of Duty coming in 2024 could well be that game. Treyarch CoDs tend to be have stronger balance, design, and maps than Infinity Ward and Sledgehammer games, and considering that Treyarch also tends to have longer TTKs than other CoD developers, it could well be the perfect storm where the right game meets the right ranked system.
Plus, going forward, Call of Duty games will all run on the beautiful Modern Warfare engine, giving Treyarch's next game a new level of graphical fidelity, realism, and immersion, too. With a strong ranked system, a good core design, and a beautiful, smooth engine powering it all, Call of Duty 2024 could well be the year where ranked play in CoD becomes the next big thing.