Earlier this year, Activision Blizzard, one of the largest and most well-known video game companies, laid off close to 800 employees. The firm is a holding company for some of the world’s most recognizable games: under their belt sits titles such as Overwatch, World of Warcraft, and the Candy Crush Saga. But it’s the decline of one game, in particular, that is largely responsible for the mass exodus that left close to 10% of Activision Blizzard’s workforce out of a job: Call of Duty.
Call of Duty was the best selling video-game franchise for nearly a decade. Few franchises are longer lasting, but the game’s performance as Activision's strongest profit-earning mechanism has slowly been sinking. In a last-ditch effort to save the storied franchise, Activision is doing everything in their power to keep Call of Duty afloat. From remastered classics to gimmicky Halo rip-offs, efforts thus far have fallen flat. Call of Duty League is here to reverse the tides.
It Worked For Overwatch
Overwatch, another one of Activision's grubstakes, shares a similar story arc to Call of Duty. Success is often short-lived in the video game industry, and both Call of Duty and Overwatch have both seen their share of the spotlight. In other words, their decline could easily be written off as an inexorable stage in the life cycle of a video game. Activision, however, has no interest in seeing their most popular titles go the way of the wind.
Introduced in 2018, Overwatch's esports league has given the franchise a second lease on life. The competitive format recontextualized the game, giving more players a reason to play and more fans a reason to watch. What was once a dying franchise, is now one of the most popular attractions in esports, pulling in close to 13 million viewers a month. But will the formula work for Call of Duty?
What To Expect From Call Of Duty League
Activision is hoping for their CoD League to offer the same reignited interest in the franchise that OWL has for Overwatch. There’s no reason for them not to be hopeful. The league looks to build off of the same structure as OWL, basing franchises in Atlanta, Dallas, New York, Paris, and Toronto. Franchise spots for the new league reportedly sold for $25 million, $5 million more than OWL spots. Considering the fact that Call of Duty is Activision’s highest grossing game to-date, it isn’t surprising that they are spending more on restructuring a game than they ever have.
Each franchise in the league is partnering with an Overwatch team in order to leverage the existing infrastructure that Activision has dutifully built over the last few years. It’s too soon to say whether league play will offer a complete Call of Duty resurgence. However, if the investment that Activision and league sponsors are putting into CoD League is any indication of what’s in store, fans of the franchise have every reason to be excited.