John Kracum on Florida Mutineers, Misfits’ approach to Call of Duty

Florida Mutineers is one of 12 franchises that will compete in the inaugural season of Activision Blizzard’s Call of Duty League, starting on January 24th. Owned by Misfits Gaming, the franchise stands out to many with its bold, pirate-inspired branding, but what else sets it apart from the competition?

Esports Insider spoke with John Kracum, President of Florida Mutineers to learn more about the team.

Esports Insider: Can you give us some background on the Mutineers branding? Is there a subtle connection to Misfits and/or Mayhem at all?

John Kracum: Mutineers are sailors, they rebel and take over their ship due to poor working conditions or whatever it is that they all believe is worth fighting against. Our take on it is that these people had the courage to group together as a community under a captain or a leader who’s forced upon them and fight to live life on their own terms. That’s who we wanted to highlight with the Mutineers branding.

Being in Florida, we have a great connection to a history of piracy in the Caribbean, there’s even a really popular pirate festival in Tampa every year called Gasparilla. The pirate theme is something that really goes well here through traditional sports franchises in Florida; we felt that that was great for us too, to make ourselves unique in a way that also links us to our community.

As far as the links to our other brands, if you look at the Florida Mutineers’ logo, the hat on the squid is an ‘M.’ All of our teams start with an ‘m’ too! I also love the Mutineers as a brand and as they embrace chaos as a community. I think that all of our brands now – Misfits Gaming, Florida Mayhem, and Florida Mutineers – are a chaotic neutral alignment.

John Kracum Florida Mutineers
Photo credit: John Kracum

ESI: Did the brand being leaked change how you rolled out the official announcement at all? What was your reaction to the leak?

JK: It didn’t affect us a whole lot in terms of our announcement plans, we really love our branding so it was cool to get a little taste test and a reaction before we actually went live with everything. We had a pretty good response so that was nice, it made us feel even better about what we had planned.

We were shocked by the leak, though leaks are common in esports and in traditional sports; reporters make a living on leaking rumours and roster changes.

In terms of how I feel about the leak, I didn’t feel bad about it and it was a good job of reporting by the people involved – that’s a sign of a healthy ecosystem, so that’s great. In some cases I have a different reaction to leaks but here it didn’t have a big impact on our plans and it was nice to see a positive reaction.

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ESI: Now we’ve seen that Atlanta FaZe exists, would you have used the Misfits branding if you could have?

JK: What I will say is that we have zero regrets about using the Florida Mutineers branding and honestly I think it’s a better result than if we had locked ourselves into Misfits. This is for a number of reasons. Frankly, Call of Duty is its own beast. It’s a massive title every year and has a unique community that we benefit from having a unique brand associated with it.

With the Florida Mutineers, we’re able to create a distinct set of values. We announced our Mutineers code on Twitter pretty early on, right after our brand announcement, and I love that as a way for our fans to identify as mutineers and as part of the team. So no, I think that we’re better off in the end being the Florida Mutineers than if we had tried to leverage that existing brand.

“We have no problem with creating a brand that exists around a more mature and violent game.”

ESI: How was the process of getting into Call of Duty League compared to Overwatch League?

JK: It was easier as we had an existing relationship with Activision Blizzard, they have been a great partner for us. There was less digging around and getting to know everybody this time round. It’s definitely a big investment for every team involved so there was still a lot of work and thought that went into whether or not we would join.

In the end though, it flowed pretty smoothly. Being in the Call of Duty league in addition to the Overwatch League is creating some really great unique opportunities for us. We recently got to participate in Activision’s Veterans Day of Service, which is a charity opportunity that they give to their employees every year. We brought out some of our players and staff to the event.

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ESI: Was the game being 18+ off-putting at all when deciding whether to enter the league?

JK: It didn’t put me off, I’ve played lots of Call of Duty! Organisationally it didn’t put us off either. It’s something that we have to deal with, whether it’s with potential sponsors or event spaces or thinking about the community that exists around the game. It’s a great game, Activision Blizzard is a great partner, and I think it ultimately ties back to why the Florida Mutineers is separate from Misfits Gaming.

We have no problem with creating a brand that exists around a more mature and violent game. I think there is fundamentally a message around all gaming in which it a game can be violent or nonviolent and people can get positive experiences out of it. I think it gives us an even better opportunity to spread that lesson and evangelize for the positive outcomes of responsible gaming.

Florida Mutineers Background
Image credit: Florida Mutineers

ESI: Do you have a venue sorted for your home events? If so, are you able to discuss it?

JK: We’re doing events in both Miami and Orlando next year but we’re not at the point of announcing venue details so sorry we’re not going to give that one to you yet! We’re very excited about our venue partners and I think we’re going to be putting on some of the greatest events.

ESI: Will you support the amateur, path to pro scene at all?

JK: That’s a great question. We see the amateur scene as a huge part of finding new talent, but also as a huge way of creating a more fun, engaging ecosystem around the game. The way that events have been ran in the past have been awesome but we think we can do even more. This plays into our event announcements, which we’re not ready to do yet, but we are super excited and very passionate about providing amateur experiences and getting the larger Call of Duty community involved.

“Colleges don’t have a rival, they have multiple rivalries. That’s something that I hope develops around this league.”

ESI: Which franchise do you consider your biggest rival?

JK: One of the things I’ve always loved about college sports is that colleges don’t have a rival, they have multiple rivalries. That’s something that I hope develops around this league. Geographically, we’re right by Atlanta so that’s an easy rivalry to develop.

Our social media folks have a nice rapport and friendly banter with the London Royal Ravens and that’s another great rivalry to build up. Frankly, as we play next year, we’ll have close matches with other teams and provide the most robust rivalries.

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ESI: Do you think franchising is the best way forward for esports?

JK: That’s a great question. When I think about what the future of esports is, I think about where the best competition is created and you don’t need franchising to do that. I think that, from a business perspective, franchising creates a lot of great opportunities that are hard to get without it. That’s the best simple answer I can give to why we’re more heavily involved in franchise than open competitions. I’ll watch anything if it’s fun and competitive and there are great people playing it. We’re not biased against non-franchised games at all.

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