Hunter C. March 16, 2019
According to a report from ESPN, Activision Blizzard will be selling Call of Duty World League franchise spots for $25 million USD per team slot.
Also confirmed in the report is Activision Blizzard’s controversial choice to have the new teams move to respective home cities.
$25 million is the largest buy-in for the first season of a franchised esports league in history, beating out Overwatch League and the League Championship Series. The LCS was already established when its franchising went into effect, while OWL was a new venture for each of its investors.
The Call of Duty World League currently works within a relegation system, with standalone tournaments also taking place in its ecosystem. Every year the release of a new Call of Duty game coincides with the Pro League resetting and a qualifying tournament being held. The new system would force teams to buy in for a guaranteed spot in the league, but they would lose any existing branding and would instead select a new city to represent.
It’s a steep price to pay for an esport that definitely isn’t in the top tier of viewership. Call of Duty has a dedicated fan base, but not even the hype of latest iteration Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 could boost viewership for long.
OpTic Gaming’s Seth “Scump” Abner reached the top of the charts on Twitch during the finals of a 2K tournament competition with over 100,000 viewers, but numbers for competitive games have since tapered off sharply.
In addition, the franchise moving to new cities could be a mistake. Call of Duty esports have been officially organized for over a decade, and several iconic organizations including OpTic Gaming and FaZe Clan got their starts with the game. Removing these established and beloved brands in exchange for new cities and nicknames won’t make fans happy in the short term.
Conversely, a move to franchising could breathe new life into the series. If the new franchise spots can be sold at the $25 million asking price, it would also represent a significant financial injection for Activision Blizzard.
Investors in the Overwatch League include massive corporations like the Kraft Group and Cox Enterprises, in addition to old esports stalwarts such as Team Envy and Immortals. Getting the deep pockets of traditional sports organizations into the scene could mean some massive growth for one of esports’ oldest game franchises.