While Activision Blizzard seems intent on getting the Overwatch League up and running — despite rumours of investor concerns and hesitation — a similar approach could be applied to another big franchise within the company’s games portfolio.
Call of Duty has long been an eSports staple, but Activision may be looking to control a more territorially-focused league with franchised teams, similar to what the company is hoping to achieve with Overwatch League.
That league hasn’t started yet, with the World Cup and Contenders dominating the game’s esports coverage these days. However, there is reportedly a number of high-profile sports figures and organisatiosn prepared to invest in Overwatch teams, suggesting a league is well on the way to launching, hopefully by the end of 2017.
A report by veteran esports journalism, Richard Lewis, details the troubles Activision Blizzard has had in attracting investors to the Overwatch League. There have been reports that some groups have been hesitant to invest without a clear clarification as to the return on investment. It’s also been reported that a recent study into the game’s esports presence, which revealed that the game had the potential to be bigger than established sports franchises, was muddling investor interest.
It could also be that Activision Blizzard’s intent to expand its esports offering into a Call of Duty league is frustrating investors who still don’t know what they stand to get back from any Overwatch League.
“Activision Blizzard have openly communicated to these brands their intention to run a similar league for their Call of Duty series,” Lewis said. “While still in the very early stages of planning the launch date could be as soon as six months after the Overwatch League becomes active.”
This stands as an interesting twist, as Activision Blizzard has made clear the territorial divide between both a Call of Duty League, and the Overwatch League. Should an investment group purchase a geographical location base — say, Los Angeles — for an Overwatch team, that doesn’t guarantee them access to the same market for a Call of Duty league. If true, that stands as an incredibly high buy-in for a single Overwatch team in only one league.
“Brands have been told that just because they control a territory for Overwatch does not guarantee them the same territory for a Call of Duty team should they choose to acquire one,” Lewis continued. “With the prospect of having to buy in again for a separate endeavour many feel that the prospect of paying so much money for what would simply be the rights to an Overwatch team represents an incredibly poor return.”
The fascinating aspect of this report is that Activision Blizzard appears intent on completely changing up its own esports landscape. A Call of Duty league already exists and has for years, with esports organisations actively getting involved and participating. The Overwatch League — and this rumoured Call of Duty league — look to be established more like pro sports leagues, with city-based franchises, licenses, and a single league table with no relegation or promotion.
This will understandably worry Call of Duty fans and current pro players who turn to the World League as the source of everything pro “CoD“. And with an uncertain future surrounding the Overwatch League, one has to wonder whether Activision Blizzard’s esports vision will actually work out in the long run.