August 15, 2011

Move over London Olympics: Major League Gaming Will Dominate in 2012


It’s time for the Masters, the US Open and the Super Bowl to move over. There is a new, hot competitive sport out there that is looking to grow and thrive in 2012: Major League Gaming.

MLG, as it is known, claims to be the largest professional video game league in the world. In 2011, its ninth year of existence, it leveraged several popular games – Call of Duty: Black Ops (Activision (News - Alert)), Starcraft II (Blizzard) and Halo: Reach (Micrsoft) – to grow in popularity. With millions of fans watching matches streamed online and in person, co-founder and CEO of MLG Sundance DiGiovanni is looking to take the nascent league to new heights in the coming year.

In addition to the titles listed above, MLG is looking to add one or two more games to their 2012 slate, hoping to expand to five games. Titles they are considering are Gears of War 3 and League of Legends, though they are also intrigued by Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3.

When asked what existing sports leagues MLG executives look to for inspiration, DiGiovanni cited the likes of the National Football League, the PGA and international tennis organizations. “We’re borrowing a little bit from each of these in terms of creating a structure that’s going to work for our audience, as well as our players,” DiGiovanni told Forbes magazine’s John Gaudiosi. “But there are definite similarities that you’ll see with the structure next year to these existing sports.  The bigger thing for us is that our sport’s open, meaning anybody can participate and try to qualify. That’s very similar to what you see in golf or tennis, but not so much what you see in NASCAR or the NFL where there’s a structure in terms of how you get in there.  We had to adopt something which handles both. The good news is that there are lots of models out there for successful leagues with media businesses around them that we can borrow from.”

MLG is currently searching for venues for its 2012 season. The company is looking at factors such as location, facilities and history with the organization to help inform its decision. “We are booking next year’s locations already and people are making bids and sending us proposals in terms of what support will be available. It’s a complicated process of trying to figure out something that’s going to work for us in terms of reaching enough regions around the country, engaging in locations that the sponsors are going to be excited about, and having access to our fan base,” DiGiovanni said.

While it may not yet have the widespread notoriety or reputation of long-standing leagues like NASCAR or the NFL, MLG is tapping into a competitive activity enjoyed by over 40 million gamers in the US alone. They have smart decision makers, a long-term plan, and a fun engaging model. It seems that the league is certainly reaching for the stars. Let’s hope they don’t run into competition from the Protoss or the Zerg.

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Rich Steeves is a TMCnet copy editor. He taught writing for nine years. He has also worked as an editorial assistant at Penny Publications. He has written short stories, newspaper columns, blogs and recently published his first novel. He attended The George Washington University where he received his bachelor's degree in English and a master's degree in education. To read more of his articles, please visit his columnist page.

Edited by Jennifer Russell
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