Toronto to get franchise in new city-based Call of Duty esports league

TORONTO — OverActive Media added to its esports portfolio Thursday, acquiring the rights to a Toronto franchise in the new city-based Call of Duty League.

OverActive says it is now the only esports organization to own permanent franchises in the world’s three biggest professional esports leagues: League of Legends, Overwatch League and Call of Duty.

The first-person shooter game has been contested in the Call of Duty World League, which holds events in several countries. OverActive’s subsidiary Splyce has entered a team in the World League and is playing in a tournament in London, England, this weekend.

The new circuit follows the lead of the city-based Overwatch League, which currently has 20 teams — including the Vancouver Titans and OverActive’s Toronto Defiant — in Canada, the U.S., China, Britain, France and South Korea in its second season.

“We were early to the table to express our interest to acquire a (Call of Duty) franchise and we’ve been successful doing that,” said Chris Overholt, president and CEO of OverActive Media.

The Splyce team entry in the existing league will shift over to the new city-based circuit.

“We really think we’re going to be competitive leaders in this new league,” Overholt said.

Activision Blizzard, which runs the Overwatch and Call of Duty leagues, announced Toronto, Atlanta, Dallas, Paris and New York as founding Call of Duty teams on Thursday.

“In each case, we are partnering with existing Overwatch League team owners who have first-hand experience of our esports vision and capabilities and recognize the scale of the opportunity for a global, city-based Call of Duty league,” Bobby Kotick, CEO of Activision Blizzard, said on a conference call.

“We look forward to announcing more details around these cities and other team sales in the coming months … We continue to lead the way in professional esports.”

Kotick said the franchise price for the new Call of Duty League was higher than the initial wave of Overwatch League teams, which reportedly went for US$20 million apiece.

The Call of Duty franchise has cumulative sales of more than 300 million units since it came out in 2003, according to Kotick.

Overholt, whose company currently has eight esports teams playing in five countries, said the new league will start play in early 2020. An Activision spokeman said the existing Call of Duty World League 2019 season will continue its schedule through July.

“We’re making plans right now to get organized,” he said.

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