No. 1 In Esports: Major League Gaming Continues To Bring Industry’s Vision To Life

Posted By Cody Luongo on August 21, 2017 - Last Updated on January 22, 2018
[toc]One organization stands well above the rest in an oversaturated esports market: Major League Gaming. Known as the pioneer of legitimizing professional gaming, MLG continues to prove to the world why it is considered the best in the business.

Founded in 2002, MLG sought to turn gaming into a viable, competitive spectator sport. Fifteen years and $46 million later, the company is now owned by Activision Blizzard, the world’s most lucrative interactive entertainment enterprise, and shows little signs of slowing down.

Major League Gaming separates itself from competitors by setting a worldwide stage for competitors and fans alike, growing the company and now community, exponentially.

MLG’s experience

Although MLG is surprisingly not the oldest pro-gaming organization out there, its resume still outshines its competitors in terms of event and broadcast experience. For example, Electronic Sports League (ESL), founded in 2000, a full two years before MLG, has recently begun to lack in popularity and production value.

As early as 2006, the up-and-coming company had televised a pre-produced Halo 2 tournament, known as the Boost Mobile MLG Pro Circuit on USA network, which aired 13 full episodes. The series was later described as “pioneering what video game broadcast should look like” and set a roadmap for the next decade of professional gaming.

The company boasts events in the hundreds while also partnering with noteworthy companies such as ESPN. MLG aided in bringing on Halo and Call of Duty onto the X Games tour for a few seasons and even introduced an all-new “Top Ten” series to ESPN.

Broadcasting tournaments didn’t stop there as Twitch, YouTube and Facebook looked to become significant contributors in streaming esports. MLG also maintained its own stream on MLG.tv, creating a large base for fans to watch in real time, online.

Valuable to esports franchises

Halo was  a staple in MLG’s success story and vice versa. Between the years of 2006 and 2011, the franchise was at the height of both its competition and viewership. This was in part, a result of MLG’s brilliant structure.

That structure included an emphasis on the events, production, spectatorship and players, allowing the franchise to thrive in a supporting environment. Pro-Circuit games enjoyed sustainable growth from the well-established and competitive scene built around them.

When a sharp competitive nature exists, the multiplayer division thrives, thus attracting new players and increasing people’s time spent playing the actual game.

Production value and events for esports

Before esports had the means to sell out venues like Madison Square Garden and the Las Vegas Convention Center, MLG made do with what it had. Although tournaments would only turn up a few hundred people at a time, MLG never sacrificed production for lack of volume.

Events were generally small, yet intimate, in the start of the company’s career. Word spread of this inviting environment, quickly growing its overall popularity. MLG was widely successful in turning competitive gaming tournaments into a fulfilling experience for both players and spectators.

It ultimately achieved this by putting emphasis on the live experience rather than viewers at home. MLG began by introducing the tournament’s players by having them emerge from smoky tunnels onto a stage of bright lights, loud music and cheers from the audience. The competitors began to appear more professional in the eyes of those watching with this change in atmosphere and energy.

The hype at these intriguing events increased via live broadcasts, allowing anyone, from anywhere in the world, to be a part of the audience. Commentators were and have continued to be passionate, knowledgeable and insightful, guiding viewers through matches while also helping them appreciate and understand competitors’ play and techniques.

The esports talent pool

Amongst these thriving commentators is Chris “Puckett” Puckett, the grass roots’ Halo: CE player that became the voice of Major League Gaming. Involved since MLG’s inception, Puckett played an array of roles in the company. Today he is most recognized for his dynamic and spirited game commentary.

When MLG dropped Halo from its Pro-Circuit, Puckett picked up game casting for Call of Duty. His versatility is one of his best attributes, translating his casting abilities across multiple games.

Puckett’s impression on the Esports community has earned him the Ambassador Award as esports’ “Personality of the Year” at the Cynopsis Summit. His prestigious and innovative work has earned him his reputation, making him a valuable member of any gaming company.

The rest of MLG’s staff is just as legit. Following the acquisition, Activision Blizzard added some heavy-hitters into MLG’s lineup. Back in September of 2016, it hired former Fox Sports executive Pete Vlastelica to become the president of Major League Gaming. The company continues to head in the direction of creating what it calls “the ESPN of esports” by operating competitive gaming similarly to traditional sports.

MLG today

Today, MLG continues its dominance at the forefront of the business. Its latest tournament, the Call of Duty World Championship, flew in 32 of the top rated teams across the globe, to play for 1.5 million dollars in prizes. Totaling to over 130 players and coaches, with an outstanding number of spectators, both in person and online. The event held up to and surpassed the standard that Call of Duty fans would expect for their matchless game.

MLG supplemented their event by providing content in the form of interviews, testimonies, highlights, and forms of post-game analysis. Preluding, MLG pumped out pieces that detailed stories of rivalries, upsets, and matchups surmounting anticipation leading up to CoD Worlds.

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MLG vs. ESL

Comparatively, the Halo World Championship, hosted by ESL, does not come even remotely close to MLG’s prosperity and unique environment. Anyone can attest that the event did not generate the same type of prosperity nor passion.

A 16-team bracket and a laughable studio venue robbed the event of its genuineness. The production value of the event was subpar, mainly focusing on the audience viewing from home.

The event didn’t give the credibility that Halo’s 16-year-old franchise deserved. Watching the best Halo players in the world compete in what looked like a garage made the competition seem more like a joke, despite the $2 million prize pool.

MLG delivers on all angles: event production, content creation and creating a compelling spectator experience. It’s no surprise that game developers want Major League Gaming to run their competitive divisions.

Photo courtesy of Major League Gaming

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