Has Franchising in Esports Worked?

September 27, 2020 5:27:00 pm

When Blizzard Entertainment initially announced the format for the Overwatch League a number of years ago, there were many skeptics suggesting that a franchised approach could be a little risky – asking teams that were still largely developing at the time to commit a large amount of money to enter, which at the time had been around $50 million, it was a big ask. Other games had done it relatively well through the natural progression – League of Legends being a perfect example as the North American seasonal approach with salaried players and requirements from the teams being an industry-standard when none had really existed.

But has it worked? Well in some sense, yes. With the prior League of Legends example, it has been hugely successful and has led to organizations in esports replicating much of the success initially found there, and with the latest title to enter esports in Valorant looking to follow a similar blueprint we may be able to see yet another example where franchising has worked well, but in the case of Overwatch League it had been a bit of a mixed bag – OWL wasn’t able to capture as big an audience as initially hoped, with numbers even now still being quite low compared to other big titles outside of Asia, it can be hard for many to justify the huge entry cost in order to compete.

There may be some changes coming, however, as both Overwatch League and Call of Duty, both Activision Blizzard titles, may be prepared to adjust franchise costs amid the ongoing pandemic. The current cost for both is $20 million for the Overwatch League and $25 million for the Call of Duty CDL – the suggestion has been that Activision Blizzard is currently in discussion with the owners of the different organisations where some leeway may be agreed upon – some suggest the preferred alternative may be to offer a break in the payment period if it is a price reduction to allow for some economic activity to resume.

Whilst many events have struggled somewhat as they have had to move to an online platform without fans in attendance and the growing number of issues that come along with that such as technical difficulties from player internet being the big one lately, other parts of the market have been extremely successful – online esports betting has really taken off during the pandemic period as a growing audience are tuning into the games including those that would perhaps be considered a little outside of the usual demographic as some crossover is allowing the audience to become broader – despite the pandemic, esports has certainly been one of the more consistent offerings where other traditional sporting events have found postponement or cancellation, and as we move forward into possibly seeing more of the same the benefits for the growing esports scene continue to present themselves and show just why the viewer numbers are growing as fast as they have been.