Whether you are a fan of the franchising model that has been active in the Overwatch League or not, franchising seems more likely with each passing month, with reports of OWL owners having the first stab at negotiations it might lead to organizations who did not qualify for the league or own Overwatch League teams such as FaZe Clan being left stranded.
The franchising model has been effective in the OWL so far, with multiple sponsorships being secured and an upscale production, both players and team owners seem to benefit from this format. Despite the monetary success, Call of Duty fans are still not convinced this is the path to follow. The most common complaint among fans are:
- Abolishment of Open Events.
- What will happen to amateur teams/players?
- What will the format be like?
There are ways franchising could benefit and accelerate the growth of Call of Duty. There are also many mistakes the OWL has made which in turn may provide benefits to COD as they have the opportunity to not repeat previous blunders. So what exactly are these benefits?
1 Amateur Scene
Activision has already hinted at the switch to franchising next year by implementing features to the BO4 season. They have introduced an "amateur" league where the teams who do not make the CWL Pro League will have their own division, which is identical to Overwatch Contenders. That answered the criticism of the development of the amateur scene as with the franchising model, teams will have their own team invested into the amateur league where young talent can make their mark and potentially have a shot at the main team.
Although OWL Contenders is viewed less than the main league, team scouts and management are actively watching and hoping to land the next hot prospect much like traditional sports such as the MLB or NBA. This will transition into the CWL franchising model, where amateur players are striving to impress team owners to establish stability with their career's.
Call of Duty, League of Legends and Overwatch are the only esports that have used a "Lan League" system, the latter have transitioned into the franchising model recently. In LoL and OW's previous iterations of their Lan League, there was a relegation system in effect allowing promotion for amateur teams along with organizations having the threat of being demoted to a lesser league every split. The abolishment of this system in the franchising model, has given added incentive to team owners to invest, as we have seen investors such as The Kraft Group and the Vancouver Canucks purchase a league spot in the OWL. The attractive feature of being able to enter the league without securing a top roster and knowing you will still keep your league spot has been a selling factor.
Call of Duty has transitioned out of the relegation system with the new B04 season which has caused notable lineups like "Team Sween" to hold out on offers as it is more likely lucrative team owners will approach them upon qualifying into the league. Team owners and investors have added security in the franchising model, which means they are more likely to invest further into players, practice facility's and content.
Another added incentive is the players stability. the LCS and OWL have minimum salary requirements for their respective league's. The CWL has a mere $5000 monthly salary, which might see a significant upgrade should franchising come into effect. The influx of stability to both players and owners drastically benefits both parties compared to the usual open format.
Securing assets is one of the key components game developers and team owners have in mind when running their business. It can further the development of the league, players' salaries and venue production, the latter elevating the fan's viewing experience allowing you to become more immersed in the matches.
The franchising model has seen astronomical success in securing long-term sponsorships of high capital. Over the last two years of the LCS and OWL they have attracted notable sponsorships from the likes of:
- Sour Patch Kids
- Omen by HP
- State Farm
Globally recognized brands have heavily invested into the longevity of these leagues, allowing them to confidently invest knowing the league development can only thrive with these investments, and a popular team will not be relegated. Not only are the respective leagues landing notable deals, certain teams have seen their sponsorships grow. Recently, Cloud9 secured a sponsorship with PUMA for the 2019 Spring LCS, and TSM landed a deal with Dr. Pepper at the beginning of the inaugural NALCS Split.
At first glance franchising seems like a terrible direction for Call of Duty, but upon further investigation the benefits significantly outweigh the cons. Franchising will fuel the games longevity for years to come and we as fans should welcome this with open arms if we want the esport to thrive.
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