Activision-Blizzard to bring franchising to Call of Duty esports

Steven R. February 18, 2019

The competitive Call of Duty scene will soon look very different.

During its Q4 2018 earnings conference call, Activision-Blizzard confirmed plans to roll out a franchised league for the Call of Duty series of games. The announcement confirmed enduring rumors about a change to the competitive Call of Duty landscape.

As it stands, the current Call of Duty World League requires teams to compete for a spot at a series of qualifying events. Teams that make the cut then compete in ensuing tournaments to earn Pro Points that determine the seeding for World League events, with the season culminating with CWL Pro League Playoffs.

A transition to a franchised league would provide more security to organizations invested in Call of Duty, and should also provide greater continuity over time.

The move likely stems from the success of Overwatch League.

In 2017, Blizzard rebuilt the competitive scene for its popular hero shooter with a model similar to traditional sports leagues. Instead of turning to third-party tournament organizers and teams, Blizzard took complete control of professional Overwatch and sold spaces in the league for tens of millions of dollars. This attracted such established esports brands as Cloud9 and OpTic Gaming, but also the ownership groups of NFL teams like the New England Patriots’ Kraft Group and the Los Angeles Rams’ Kroenke Sports & Entertainment.

According to the call, the league would likely adopt a similar model, offering franchises for city-based teams. No other details were announced, but ESPN reported last year that Activision-Blizzard is required to first approach the owners of established Overwatch League teams for potential Call of Duty franchises.

Most of the esports organizations that own an Overwatch League team already have a Call of Duty roster, including Seoul Dynasty owners Gen.G and Toronto Defiant owners Splyce.

The 2019 season of the Call of Duty World League is already underway. More details may surface at the Pro League Playoffs, which will likely take place in August.

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