- Activision Blizzard’s Call of Duty League is an esports competition for one of the most popular video games in the world, with professional gamers representing 12 teams based in cities across North America and Europe.
- The “Call of Duty” franchise is an perennial best-seller, and the newest entry into the series recorded more than six million players in 24 hours.
- The 12 founding franchises in the Call of Duty League paid $25 million each to play in the inaugural season, according to ESPN. Ten of those team owners also invested $20 million or more in Activision’s Overwatch League.
- Call of Duty League team owners range from professional sports teams and media conglomerates to real estate investment firms.
- Business Insider created a list of everyone who’s invested millions to be part of the Call of Duty League’s first season.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
Activision Blizzard’s Call of Duty League launched its inaugural season in January 2020, with 12 franchises paying $25 million each to compete in the wildly popular video game, according to ESPN.
“Call of Duty” is one of the best-selling video game franchises of all time and has millions of active players on consoles, computers, and mobile devices. The Call of Duty League pays professional players a salary to compete in front of thousands of fans at live events in cities around the world.
Back in 2017, 12 teams paid $20 million to join Activision’s first franchised esports competition, the Overwatch League, but the price to invest in Activision’s newest esports initiative has gone up, according to Jacob Wolf of ESPN. The Overwatch League added eight new expansion teams ahead of its second season in 2019, with franchises paying between $30 and $60 million each for the rights to join, ESPN reported.
The Call of Duty League shares 10 of its 12 franchise owners with the Overwatch League, reflecting their confidence in Activision Blizzard’s business model. Franchise investors range from endemic esports organizations with venture-capitalist backing to media conglomerates and sports franchises like the Los Angeles Rams.
Each Call of Duty League team has a home city, though not all of the team owners are from the same region. Activision wants live Call of Duty League events to turn local attendees into lifelong fans of esports. So far thousands of fans have filled arenas in the US and Europe for Call of Duty League matches, but the league’s traveling schedule has been put on hold due to the spread of the coronavirus.
On March 12 the league announced that it would shift to an online-only match schedule.
“Call of Duty League has seen firsthand the power of our live events in our inaugural season, and will return to city-based competition in front of live audiences as soon as it is safe and logistically possible,” the league said in a statement.
Activision plans to continue broadcasting its esports leagues live online usual, though there wont be fans in attendance. The company recently reached a deal with Google to make YouTube the official streaming home of the Call of Duty League, Overwatch League, and other Activision esports games. Activision’s broadcasting deal with YouTube was valued at $160 million, according to The Esports Observer.
Here’s a breakdown of all 12 ownership groups in Activision Blizzard’s Call of Duty League:
Atlanta Esports Ventures (Cox Enterprises, Province): Atlanta Faze
Atlanta Esports is the product of a joint venture between Cox Enterprises, one of the city’s largest telecom companies, and Province, a Georgia-based real estate firm. The two companies formed Atlanta Esports Ventures and have since partnered with FaZe Clan to invest in a Call of Duty League team.
FaZe Clan is an wildly popular esports organization best known for its celebrity partnerships and viral video content on YouTube and Twitch.
NRG Esports: Chicago Huntsmen
NRG Esports is an esports organization founded in 2015 with celebrity investors that include Shaquille O’Neal, Jennifer Lopez, and Tiësto. NRG sponsors players in seven different games and also owns the Overwatch League’s San Francisco Shock.
Envy Gaming: Dallas Empire
Envy Gaming began as a professional “Call of Duty” team in 2007 and currently fields teams in the Call of Duty League, Overwatch League, “Fortnite,” and “Counter-Strike: Global Offensive.”
Led by CEO Mike Rufail, the Dallas-based organization announced $20 million in Series A funding in January 2019 and hosts events in the Esports Stadium Arlington, a $10 million venue with room for 2,500 fans.
Misfits Gaming: Florida Mutineers
Misfits is a Miami-based esports organization with teams competing in “Call of Duty,” “Overwatch,” “League of Legends,” “NBA 2K,” and “Super Smash Bros.”
CEO Ben Spoont cofounded the organization in 2016 with Syfy Channel founders Laurie Silvers and Mitch Rubenstein, and later partnered with the Miami Heat to establish the NBA team’s esports affiliate.
ReKTGlobal: London Royal Ravens
Rekt Global is an international esports association with offices in New York, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Charlotte, London, and Berlin. The company’s main esports club, Rogue, supports teams in eight different games and has won 14 world titles.
RektGlobal investors include Steve Aoki, Nicky Romero, and Imagine Dragons.
Kroenke Sports & Entertainment: Optic Gaming Los Angeles
Kroenke Sports & Entertainment (KSE) owns the Los Angeles Rams and recently financed the $5 billion SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, California. The organization also owns the Overwatch League’s Los Angeles Gladiators.
In 2019, KSE attempted to purchase Echo Fox’s League of Legends franchise for $30.25 million, but a lawsuit from an esports organization called Sentinels prevented the sale. KSE partnered with Sentinels to help operate the Gladiators, but Sentinels accused KSE of failing to cover costs associated with the team.
KSE ultimately settled the lawsuit before announcing its investment in the Call of Duty League.
Immortals Gaming Club: Los Angeles Guerrillas
Immortals is a Los Angeles-based esports organization with teams competing in the Overwatch League, Call of Duty League, and the League of Legends Championship Series.
In June 2019, Immortals acquired Infinite Esports & Entertainment for more than $100 million, a transaction that Immortals said was one of the largest in esports history. Immortals acquired a second Overwatch League franchise as a part of the deal, the Houston Outlaws, but the team was later sold to Beasley Broadcast Group in a deal that Forbes estimated to be worth $35 million.
WISE Ventures: Minnesota Rokkr
WISE Venture Esports is a subsidiary company owned by the Wilf family, which also owns the NFL’s Minnesota Vikings. Led by coowners Gary Vaynerchuk and Jonathan Wilf, Rokkr is WISE’s first esports franchise.
The team hosted the Call of Duty League’s inaugural event and told Business Insider they were excited to bring a major esports event to Minnesota for the first time.
C0ntact Gaming/McCourt Global: Paris Legion
McCourt Global is an investment firm with real estate developments in New York City, London, and Miami. McCourt sold the Los Angles Dodgers in 2012 for $2.2 billion and acquired the French soccer team Olmpique de Marseille in 2016.
In January 2019, Drew McCourt founded c0ntact Gaming to manage Paris Legion and Paris Eternal, an Overwatch League team.
Andbox: New York Subliners
Andbox is a gaming and esports organization founded by SterlingVC, a venture capital firm with the same owners as the New York Mets. In addition to owning the Overwatch League’s New York Excelsior, Andbox designs gaming-related street fashion and sponsors events for gamers in New York City.
The Aquilini Group: Seattle Surge
Aquilini is the parent company of the NHL’s Vancouver Canucks and the Overwatch League’s Vancouver Titans franchise was the firm’s first esports investment. The Canadian investment group also has holdings in real estate, restaurants, hotels, office space, and farms.
Shortly after the start of the Overwatch League’s second season in 2019, Aquilini raised $18.7 million to acquire its partner Luminosity Gaming and eventually announced its entry into the Call of Duty League.
OverActive Media: Toronto Ultra
OverActive Media is a Toronto-based esports organization with franchises competing in four different games.
Along with Toronto Ultra, OverActive Media owns Toronto’s Overwatch League team and operates the Spain-based MAD Lions in the League of Legends European Championship. OverActive is also a founding partner of Flashpoint, a new esports league for “Counter-Strike Global Offensive.”