David Vonderhaar weighs in on franchising in Call of Duty esports

Game Reactor

Treyarch Studios design director David Vonderhaar has briefly discussed the plans for Call of Duty esports to become a franchised league, and the challenges it may face.

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Vonderhaar is likely the most recognized Call of Duty developer, having led the Treyarch design team on making World at War, Black Ops, Black Ops 2, Black Ops III and most recently Black Ops 4.

Treyarch have long been considered the most supportive of the three Call of Duty developers when it comes to competitive play, and the CoD World League was launched alongside Black Ops III, which helped provide stability and consistency for the esport.

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The CWL will be a city-based franchise league for the 2019 season.
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The franchised league for Call of Duty will not be launching on a Treyarch title, and instead will be in place for Infinity Ward’s 2019 offering, meaning Vonderhaar will be able to observe more from the outside looking in.

After the 2019 franchised league was confirmed by Activision on February 12, Team Envy and Dallas Fuel owner Mike ‘Hastr0’ Rufail, who started his esports career with Call of Duty, discussed the plans on an Envy podcast.

Touching on the viability of a city-based Call of Duty franchised league, when compared specifically to Overwatch, Hastr0 had uncertainties, particularly about retaining the ‘Envy’ branding, which has been tied to Call of Duty for its entire existence.

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Vonderhaar replied to Hastr0 on Twitter, complimenting Envy on their ‘social assets’ and brand management, before touching on the future of CoD esports and the franchised league.

The developer explains that challenge facing Activision and league organizers MLG, is how to create a “viable/self-sustainable professional league”, that will also remain true to the “deep legacy and glorious grassroots/punk rock nature” of Call of Duty esports.

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Given that Infinity Ward will be behind the next Call of Duty release, this is perhaps not a challenge that Vonderhaar will be involved in tackling directly.

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The 2018 season is not even half through though, and there is still a lot to focus on for this year before looking ahead. Treyarch specifically have been under fire from the competitive community due to the lack of League Play, which despite being announced in May 2018, is still not available as February 14, 2019.

The news of the franchised league was met with both excitement and concern, as whether the ideas implemented with the Overwatch League can be executed with Call of Duty, remains uncertain.