Major League Gaming is expanding to Brazil

Major League Gaming, the biggest esports league in North America, is going to Brazil

Photo via AK Rockefeller (CC-BY-SA 2.0)

Major League Gaming, the biggest esports league in North America, is going to Brazil.

The 12-year-old company announced today it has established its first international franchise, MLG Brasil, as part of a partnership with Grupo Águia, a major sports entertainment and tourism company best known for providing hospitality, food, and transportation services at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.

The new MLG franchise will see its first competitive games played at the Call of Duty Championship Brazilian Online Qualifiers on Feb. 16 and 23 on MLG Brasil expects to run major in-person events, in 2014 but no specific schedule has been planned so far.

“We plan to announce additional global operations throughout the year,” said Mike Sepso, MLG co-founder and president. The MLG’s roadmap includes “many international franchises,” Sepso said.

Brazil is the fastest growing games market in the world in terms of total consumer spending, according to video game market research firm Newzoo. Brazil also boasts an Internet population of around 80 million and over 100,000 LAN houses, where as much as half of all Brazilian Internet access takes place, including quite a bit of gaming.

Brazil’s esports history stretches back over a decade. Ten years ago, the Counter-Strike team Made in Brazil (known as mibr) gained worldwide fame through shocking upsets over teams like 3D from the more well-established regions of North America and Europe. Mibr won the hearts of fans all over the world and took home over $125,000 in prize money over five years of play.

Plans to build the Brazilian operation have been in the works for the last year. Leading the venture will be CEO Paulo Castello Branco, the current CEO of Travel Brazil, executive president of the Grupo Águia management team, and “an esports fan,” according to Sepso. “His passion for sports and gaming and strong history with major events in Brazil make him the perfect person to spearhead the MLG Brasil operation.”

MLG Brasil will work under the guidance of MLG’s executives in New York City to create a league uniquely suited to the Brazilian market, through the specific games to be featured has yet to be determined. Sepso added, however, that MLG’s global games will likely still appear in addition to games unique to Brazil. Recent MLG North American events have featured games like Call of DutyDota 2, and StarCraft 2League of Legends, one of Brazil’s most popular games, has not been featured at an MLG event since early last year.

MLG’s international expansion is the latest in a series of big announcements at the start of 2014, making it already something of an eventful year for the group. Last month, the company announced it was closing in on profitability for the first time ever thanks in large part to their new streaming service. This week, MLG partnered with a major Hollywood studio to launch the first in a series of advertising campaigns.

When discussing Grupo Águia’s prominent role at the World Cup, new CEO Branco spoke about the importance of changing the perception of Brazil in the international community. Sporting megaevents may represent a watershed moment in Brazilian history, he said, and have the potential to change the legacy of Brazilian tourism.

“Brazil is now an interesting country,” he told Radar, “it is a country that is seen, the country in fashion.”

Of course, MLG is hardly the first international esports company to set down roots in Brazil. Intel Extreme Masters ran their annual tournament in Sao Paulo just two weeks ago. Before that, esports heavyweights like the World Cyber Games and Cyberathlete Professional League ran annual tournaments as well.

But none of those companies set up a permanent base in the country, making MLG’s expedition something new and interesting to watch.

“As the fourth largest market in the world, we know there is enormous potential in Brazil and an appetite for competition,” Branco said.