100 Thieves is only less than two years old, but its quick rise to becoming an esports powerhouse has been nothing short of spectacular. Owner and founder Matthew “Nadeshot” Haag is proud of the brand he has helped build, which is why he’s a little nervous about franchising.
“The way that Activision and Blizzard are handling team branding is definitely a concern of mine,” he told ESPN. “For 100 Thieves, we’re very much focused on 100 Thieves, and we’re building beyond just gaming, so that’s definitely been one of the reservations in my mind...because we’d have to build out an entirely different asset and brand.”
This is a very reasonable concern from Nadeshot. Lots of other esports organization owners had to put resources into developing new assets and brands for the Overwatch League when they announced that the franchises would be exclusive to Overwatch League.
But Nadeshot wasn’t entirely critical of the job that Activision and Blizzard have done. “They’ve done an incredible job from a sales perspective. They’re monetizing the league very well. I’ve talked to a lot of different owners about their experience in Overwatch, and there’s some positives and a lot of negatives. I’m cautiously optimistic.”
Nadeshot then switched the discussion to Call of Duty esports, and similar to his analysis of Overwatch League practices, relayed that Activision had “done alot of good, but there’s a lot that they could do better.”
When asked about specific positives and negatives of franchising on an organization, Nadeshot noted the lack of volatility as the biggest positive, citing the struggles of relegation on organizations during the pre-franchise days of the LCS.
He does have a point here: while yes, relegation does stoke the flames of competition by giving teams a reason not to be bad, it can be a struggle for organizations trying to get funding and maintain sponsorships if they end up being relegated to a lower league.
Nadeshot circled back to his earlier point about branding as a primary negative for franchising organizations. “You have these household brands that have been built over the past decade, why wipe that away?”
100 Thieves’ NA LCS roster finished dead last in Championship points for 2019, with zero points earned between the Spring and Summer Split. Their famed Call of Duty roster made it all the way to the grand finals of the Call of Duty World League Championships, before falling to eUnited 3-2.