For a long time, competitive gaming has struggled to get mainstream media attention, even as it has grown in popularity. At one time or another, everyone from DirecTV to CBS to G4 has aired competitive gaming programming, but none of it has really stuck.
That may soon be changing, as yesterday, ESPN and Major League Gaming announced that they had reached a deal to bring MLG coverage to cable’s oldest and biggest sports network.
According to the press release, ESPN.com has entered into agreement with Major League Gaming (MLG) that will allow ESPN to become the primary source of coverage for all MLG Pro Circuit Competitions in 2008. This will include exclusive streamed matches, pro player interviews, and scores and stats. Additionally, as part of the agreement, MLG will host ESPN co-branded online video game tournaments.
The press release also states that “ESPN will be on site at each of the 2008 MLG Pro Circuit Competitions, reporting news from its own coverage booth for various ESPN programs and platforms, including ESPN360.com, ESPN’s signature broadband sports network.” The question on which ESPN channel any broadcasts will show up is still a mystery, but both ESPN and ESPN 2 are viable possibilities. If they can show the World Series of Poker on both channels, then why not competitive gaming?
Lastly, as part of the deal, ESPN will be launching a Web site with all of the latest news, information, videos, etc. as it relates to the world of competitive gaming. This includes, according to ESPN, “background on MLG, interviews with marquee players, video from past competitions and the ESPN/MLG Top Ten, which includes regularly updated video highlighting top game play from MLG pros and players.” Further information on this will be released in the coming weeks.
ESPN has already had a video game-related site for quite some time, but for both the MLG and ESPN, this can be considered a huge move. Previous attempts to cover competitive gaming events on television have fallen through, but with a juggernaut like ESPN behind MLG and its coverage, things may be different this time around. After all, they've turned things people wouldn't considered sport (darts, competitive eating and poker, for example) into popular culture. Who's to say they can't do the same for competitive gaming?