The franchising model is a common one in several of today’s industries, especially in fast food. Popular due to its ability to distribute risk more evenly and acquire capital without selling ownership of a brand, a great deal of food chains have embraced franchising for their restaurants under a governing body. Similarly, franchising has been immensely popular in the American sports world for different reasons. Within the context of sports, it enables this central governing body to make objective rulings at the benefit of all parties in terms of fairness. The idea of franchising has again come under investigation with the rapid growth of the eSports industry.
Several of the major eSports have embraced a franchising model already; Riot games implemented franchising relatively recently for its North American league and has announced plans to implement the partnership system in Europe as well. Blizzard made headlines when a figure of $20 million was revealed as the price for a seat at the table in their Overwatch League. This came as controversial given the unproven nature of the game and the lack of spectator support initially. On the opposite side of this are DOTA 2 and Counter Strike: Global Offensive, the 2 Valve owned games. DOTA 2 has some structure implemented in their scene by Valve, but CS:GO simply has two Valve-sponsored tournaments a year. So which system is better?
There are several arguments against the idea of bringing a franchising model into the Counter Strike scene; some of the most compelling ones come from the players themselves. In mid-2016, a new entity called PEA, or Professional eSports Association, announced plans to run an exclusive league in North American CS. This league would require players to drop out of the ESL Pro League, a long standing international competition. A representative group of 25 players voted unanimously to attend the ESL Pro League instead of a PEA exclusive league, resulting in the demise of the movement. To understand why players made this choice in the face of the larger payouts of the PEA league, it is crucial to understand the complexity of the CS:GO professional scene.
Effectively, the CS scene is an ever changing amorphous blob of teams, players, and tournament organizers. The counterstrike scene has a much larger number of top tier tournament organizers compared to any other eSport; this includes ESL, FaceIt, PGL, eLeague, StarSeries, and Dreamhack. Thanks to the high amount of tournaments, players are offered the choices to how many they want to attend. The current scene gives a good deal of power to the players because of the decentralized nature. If the CS scene was organized into smaller, compact leagues like Overwatch or League of Legends, then players would have no agency if they were removed from the singular league.
In general, viewers tend to sympathize with the players or the teams more than TO’s or governing bodies. In the case of the counterstrike scene, players retain a great deal of power through their ability to choose; choosing between teams, between tournaments, and eventually building their own career through choice. Bringing franchising into Counter Strike would decrease the amount of tournaments and likely transfer power over to the team leaders, who offer little to the scene in terms of value other than funding.
Michael O’Malley is a Business Administration/Theatre Double major sophomore at USC. He enjoys long walks on the beach, screaming into the abyss, and dancing with friends. He grew up in Birmingham, Alabama and does know how to read.