CDL & OWL team faces layoffs as Activision Blizzard looks to overhaul esports

Activision Blizzard

Activision Blizzard’s esports division is reportedly laying off 50 employees as they look to restructure the department, just weeks before the Overwatch League 2021 season gets going.

On March 16, according to a report from The Esports Observer (TEO), Activision Blizzard Esports announced a restructuring that ultimately means 50 of their employees will be getting laid off.

Activision Blizzard Esports operates both the Call of Duty League, who’s 2021 season has already started, and the Overwatch League, who will begin play on April 16.

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Scump chicago huntsmen cdl 2020Call of Duty League
CDL’s 2021 season is already in full swing, and OWL’s is only a few weeks away at the time the news broke.

Tony Petitti, president of sports and entertainment at Activision Blizzard, told TEO in an interview on March 16 that it could be possible online-only play makes up the majority, but not all, of the OWL and CDL schedules going forward. Which isn’t the greatest news for OWL Homestands.

“We learned a lot last year in terms of how the leagues can be structured for online play, and we’ll look to carry forward the best practices from that,” Petitti told TEO. “In terms of timing, it’s a reaction to the realities of how the leagues are playing and what resources we need to allocate to best serve the league, owners, teams and fans.”

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According to Activision Blizzard though, they are still optimistic about the potential for both CDL and OWL to continue growing despite this latest news.

A short while after TEO’s story came out, the company officially announced the layoffs, which would primarily affect their live events and production teams.

“Players are increasingly choosing to connect with our games digitally,” a spokesperson said in the release. “And the e-sports team, much like traditional sports, entertainment, and broadcasting industries, has had to adapt its business due to the impact the pandemic has had on live events.”

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Stewart Volland for Blizzard Entertainment
Overwatch League’s live events were incredibly popular, back when they could be held.

Shortly after the news that the company would be letting 50 employees go started to come out, staff from both leagues reacted to the news.

The company said they were able to keep the majority of their employees throughout 2020, and that these changes have been a long time coming, even before Petitti was hired to Activision Blizzard from the MLB (Major League Baseball).

Live events won’t totally be going away though, according to a statement from one of the companies’ PR reps obtained by GamesIndustryBiz.

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“Live events are still very much a part of both the Overwatch League and Call of Duty League strategies,” the rep told GamesIndustryBiz. “We plan to get back to them as soon as it’s safe to do so and logistically feasible.”

But, until we get more details on what exactly is being planned, this definitely doesn’t seem like good news for fans who hope to catch either the CDL or OWL live soon.

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