Activision Blizzard today will confirm that 100 Thieves has bought into the Call of Duty League as the L.A. Thieves, a significant win for the video game maker that brings one of the most popular gaming organizations back into the sport.
100 Thieves is buying a slot from Immortals Gaming Club, which is selling its franchise that it had for OpTic Gaming L.A. Terms for the deal are not being disclosed, but the original franchise fee that Optic agreed to was $25M USD, and industry execs said 100 Thieves may have had to pay a slight premium to get the slot.
100 Thieves President John Robinson told SBJ/TEO that he and organization Founder & CEO Matt “Nadeshot” Haag made the move because they were impressed with several facets of both Call of Duty as a video game this year and CDL’s inaugural campaign, and when the opportunity to have an L.A. based franchise popped up, the combination left them feeling like this was the right time to get back involved in Call of Duty esports. 100 Thieves is based in L.A., and the organization didn’t want to purchase a franchise in a different city.
Robinson specifically cited how Call of Duty: Warzone and Call of Duty Mobile resonated so much culturally this year and how the CDL had a solid start in its first year as a newly franchised, geo-located property. 100 Thieves formerly competed in Call of Duty esports in its former version, CoD World League, and it won two championships in 2019.
Robinson expects that sponsorship assets for the L.A. Thieves will be split between current 100 Thieves sponsors like Cash App plus new sponsors, though he wasn’t prepared to release further details.
He said of the move, “Over the last year, we’ve been watching from afar as fans and the first thing we noticed was we just missed being part of CDL … and throughout the course of the year we kept hearing from our fans how meaningful it was and how much they wanted us to be in it and obviously that’s a huge priority for us. … The other part is Call of Duty had a massive 2020.”
The news is a notable win for Activision Blizzard Esports, which now has one of the most popular gaming organizations bought into one of its premier esports properties as it tries to grow them. Robinson credited Activision Blizzard and CDL Commissioner Johanna Faries for finding the middle-ground solution of letting organizations like 100 Thieves and FaZe Clan retain part of their identity while also hewing to the geo-located format of the league. In FaZe Clan’s case, it bought into the Atlanta franchise, which is now known as Atlanta FaZe. He also cited the three-year, $160M media-rights deal with YouTube as something that 100 Thieves was impressed by.
Esports outlet Dexerto first reported the L.A. Thieves move, while The Esports Observer first reported that esports entrepreneur Hector “H3CZ” Rodriguez had re-acquired OpTic Gaming from and as part of the deal would divest Optic’s CDL slot, which ultimately went to 100 Thieves in the deal being announced today.
100 Thieves was founded in 2017 by Haag, who is one of the most decorated players in Call of Duty esports history. The organization has teams also competing in Fortnite, Valorant, and League of Legends – and it counts rapper Drake, music mogul Scooter Braun and Cavaliers Owner Dan Gilbert as investors.
The organization recently announced that it is exiting the Counter-Strike: Global Offensive esports scene, but Robinson said that decision was separate from the CDL move and was not made to help divert funds to the franchise purchase.
“If you think back to 18 months ago when we were first evaluating (whether to get into CDL), we were looking at it more as: ‘Do we get into a five-v-five competitive league?’ And Activision, to their credit, has made Call of Duty way bigger than just a console game, and the opportunity to be in CDL is bigger than just running an esports team,” Robinson said. “We put on a couple Warzone tournaments this year, but we’ll be able to do a whole lot more as an official partner of Activision, and that got us really excited.”
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