By Isaac Chandler
July 10, 2019
We’re halfway through 2019, and that means only a few more months until the end of an era. That’s right, Call of Duty is officially jumping onto the franchising wagon, and as always such a drastic change to the competitive landscape isn’t without controversy.
While the franchising is happening whether fans like it or not at this point, it’s important to take a look at in order to understand the reasoning for the move and what it means for the future. There’s plenty of reasons on either side of the aisle, so today we’re going to break a few of them down and give our position on the debate.
Starting out with the pros of the move, franchising will first and foremost bring more money into the game’s scene, something CoD has desperately needed for a while.
A large part of this can be chalked up to the stability franchising brings: no longer will sponsors have to worry about the teams they’re partnered with having a rough season and crashing out of the top flight of the scene, or worrying about a team getting suddenly bought out and rebranded to a team with a competing sponsorship.
Franchising sets teams up in the league, and no matter who owns it two-years or 50 years from now it’s still going to be the same team.
It also allows the league as a whole to bring in more money through larger league-wide deals and streaming/tv rights. This is the path Activision already took with the Overwatch League (OWL), and its revenue has been skyrocketing off of streaming deals with ESPN and ABC/Disney; revenue that has been shared across every team in the league.
This leads to a much more sustainable ecosystem than those of games with tournament circuits, where players often just get by living tournament to tournament.
The league would also bring uniformity to the broadcasting of tournaments, as opposed to the varying levels of quality currently seen from event to event. A uniform quality means more time can be spent improving the experience, which makes it easier for viewers to watch and draws in more fans who may have been turned off by a poorly produced event in the past.
While a lot of money and stability will flow into the scene following franchising, the move is not without problems.
The biggest limitation, so far, would have to be the cost of entering the league. It’s been reported that spots in the new franchised system can cost $25 million for each team, an exorbitant fee for a game that has failed to draw in viewership numbers like League of Legends, Counter-Strike, or even Overwatch for that matter.
The price, along with the limited number of franchise spots (currently seven), means that some of the smaller orgs that have been cornerstones of the scene for years will likely be excluded, which will definitely upset their long-time fans. OpTic is barely making it in under Immortals’ ownership, I’d hate to see what happens to an org like Luminosity or Evil Geniuses who don’t have that sort of backing.
Even worse for CoD, the game’s viewership, as we mentioned earlier, is smaller than a lot of its competition, and while leagues like OWL have been getting a lot of money from league-wide deals, the number of sponsors is still incredibly small. If games like League and Overwatch can’t draw in massive numbers of sponsors, how will a smaller, honestly tier-two title like CoD fair?
This is made even harder with the game’s nature: much like Counter-Strike, the game features a lot of blood and gore, something a lot of sponsors aren’t going to want to be involved with. There’s a reason Gears of War esports has stayed so small after all these years.
It remains to be seen how this venture into franchising will fair in the long term for the CoD scene, but we can say with certainty at least that things will never be the same.