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Esports pros have dream jobs – but game publishers have all the power

In 2008 James “Clayster” Eubanks, then 16, decided he had what it takes to be number one call of Duty Players in the world. Eubanks grew up in Virginia and owned the latest consoles and specialty gaming PCs. His house was the first on the block to have DSL. Now he used all of these exercises and ground them up call of Duty ranks every day, balancing his competitive ambitions against school, part-time jobs, and girls. Playing the game professionally wasn’t a well-established career path, but it eventually resulted in a loose series of tournaments. “It was really hectic,” says Eubanks. “But it got more and more sophisticated over the years.”

; The tournament prizes got a little bigger every year. The competition got tougher. He got more famous.

Then the esports industry soared when the massive popularity of League of Legends and Starcraft II Esports sparked a wave of sponsorships and international stadium events. Activision began to compete call of Duty through a new lens. In 2020 the publisher Activision launched the call of Duty League: 12 teams of five players each representing 12 different cities around the world. As a top competitor in the Dallas Empire, Eubanks helped his team get the first call of Duty Championship in July. He was excited. Then everything changed.

Activision decided on this professional in August call of Duty Games should be four against four, not five against five. Twenty percent of the league’s players had to leave. Days after its big win, the Dallas Empire dropped Eubanks, who was ranked fifth on the roster. “I was happy for about 24 hours before I got thrown back in the blender, but that’s the story of my career,” Eubanks wrote on Twitter.

CDL Commissioner Johanna Faries said Activision’s decision was “the result of a very extensive process” that included feedback sessions with teams, players and “all major stakeholders”. While Eubanks believes the new format is better for the game overall, he said he was never asked about a move that would directly affect him and “has no idea how it happened”.

As esports expands – the global esports market is generously estimated at $ 1 billion – it is similar to other professional sports like soccer: international leagues, teams with sophisticated brands, investors looking for vanity projects, 18-year-old prodigies. However, there is still one big difference: Nobody owns football. The beautiful game is not everyone’s intellectual property. Esports games are.

This simple fact was primarily an incentive for esports game publishers to create these leagues to promote their products. For professional gamers, this has helped stabilize a turbulent job: a regular paycheck and benefits too. Balenciaga sneakers. Hair and makeup. Well-attended Twitch streams and vlogs from a clean pool behind the Los Angeles team house. At the same time, franchise esports is a modern experiment when a marketing initiative becomes an industry of its own. While players appreciate the opportunities they have been given to literally play for work, they’re not sure how much power the publishers have.

“If you are really interested in the competition call of DutySince this is a competitive sport, a lot of things would be done differently, ”says Eubanks. “call of Duty Esports will always and forever be a marketing tool for and for Activision call of Duty. ”

Publishers made a game. You sell the game. You own the IP. Everything that has to do with the games has to go through it. And now they own the leagues too: Riot Games launched its own in 2013 League of Legends League that League of Legends Championship series. Activision Blizzard’s Overwatch and call of Duty Years later followed. These game makers sell spots in their franchise esports leagues for $ 10 million to $ 60 million. Activision Blizzard charged $ 20 million as an entry fee for the Overwatch The league’s original 12 franchise teams that attracted investors like Robert Kraft and Jeff Wilpon. (Tom Martell, Riot’s Director of Operations for Global Esports, told WIRED that they purposely charge below market value to promote long-term stability.) Of course, there is only one top-level league for each game. and at least for call of DutyFan favorite teams like 100 Thieves were unable to participate due to the large buy-in.

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