Call of Duty League will change eSports as we know it

An empty Call of Duty eSports event.
Image from GFinity eSports.

With the leak of the Call of Duty League’s official roster of teams, it’s over — eSports as we know it is dead. Over the last few years, we’ve seen a monumental shift in eSports and how the public perceives it.

Back in the days of Quake and Unreal Tournament, players like Fatal1ty began to set the stage for what would ultimately become a paradigm shift in competitive gaming. Endorsements, sponsorship, player-branded products — this level of notoriety was typically reserved for “real” athletes. This was so influential in the evolution of eSports because normal, everyday people could truly become a dominant force. There’s no college recruiters, you don’t need physical advantages such as height or strength, and the market competitive field is truly open to anyone.

Now, the Call of Duty League is officially happening and the barrier of entry is at an unprecedented high.

eSports as we know it is dead

Companies have been trying to legitimize eSports for quite some time now. Coverage on ESPN, the upcoming 2020 Olympics, and eSports memorabilia help increase the pub’s awareness of entertainment’s new Goliath. The new Call of Duty League takes it one step further, pushing eSports to the same playing field as the NBA, NFL, and MLB. And yeah, you’ve probably heard about the mind-blowing price to start a “franchise” — an official CoD League team — $25 million.

So far, 12 locales have signed up. Allow me to put this in perspective for you so we’re clear at the level of money involved here. According to the official Call of Duty eSports account on reddit (u/callofduty_esports):

  • $25,000,000 franchise fee
  • $50,000 minimum player salary + healthcare and retirement benefits
  • Minimum team size of 7 players, max team size of 10 players
  • 50% of team prize pool must be distributed to players (the total prize pool of the season is approximately $6,000,000)
  • Teams aren’t required to pay housing and food stipends, but they are allowed to;
  • If not provided, the team must issue a plan to the Call of Duty League Office to help players attain suitable places to live during the season
  • Player contracts are also guaranteed, so even if they’re dropped during the season they still get paid

Based on some rough napkin math, a full team with the minimum player salary is $500,000 a season. The total for all teams would be a minimum of $6,000,000. This obviously doesn’t count healthcare, retirement, travel, housing, etc. And while there’s no way to accurately guess the costs in the USA, we can guesstimate. American teams are roughly a $26,000,000 minimum investment each. Just counting the total franchise fees and we’re pushing into about a third of a billion dollars. That’s billion with a ‘b’.

The stakes are as high as they’ve ever been, for pros and amateurs alike

Teams are also able to sign up to 4 two-way players to compete in the Path to Pro series. We’ll see online and open bracket tournaments in cities worldwide. These will be officially sanctioned events.

Most interesting, in regards to current Call of Duty World League players:

  • Existing Call of Duty World League teams that are transitioning into the new league will have the right to match a competing offer made to a player on their current roster from another team in the new league. The matching period will be limited to a maximum of 7 days from the date of the initial contract submission to the league.
  • All Call of Duty World League teams will have the ability to negotiate a contract buyout fee to be paid by the team in the new league. Buyout fees carry no set minimum and are capped at 100 percent of the player’s salary in the new league plus any applicable guaranteed bonuses.
  • The right to match and buyout fees are subject to any contractual limitations on such fees that the player has negotiated in the player contract with the Call of Duty World League team.
  • Player trades among teams in the pro league may take place through majority of the 2020 season.

The future looks bright

There was major concern that amateur players wouldn’t have a way to progress, but it seems like those concerns have been laid to rest. This is absolutely fantastic news for amateur players, and I didn’t see anywhere that unsanctioned tournaments weren’t allowed. This could change, however, as the full news of the new eSports arrangement continues to be unveiled.

It’s incredibly reassuring that the Call of Duty League will be a part of the amateur events in some capacity. I’ll admit that before this official announcement I was most concerned about the ability for amateurs to turn pro.

Overall, this seems like a great move for eSports. The structure of the new Call of Duty League combined with some serious backing means that eSports is taking 2020 by storm.

Estevan Zamora
An entrepreneur, photographer, and writer. He likes capturing beautiful images, scrubbing it up in various competitive FPS games, and browsing reddit like it's about to shut down.

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