Major League Gaming and 'Call of Duty' are coming to ESPN
Competitive gaming is coming back to ESPN.
Major League Gaming, the 12-year-old North American esports league, is partnering with the cable sports giant to host an eight-team Call of Duty: Ghosts tournament at Austin's inaugural X Games festival in June.
Fans will get to see some of the biggest names in Call of Duty, including CompLexity, EnVyUs and OpTic Gaming, compete for X Games medals alongside action sports staples like skateboarding and BMX. Those teams secured their places in Austin with top three finishes at the Call of Duty championships in March. The tournament's five other teams will qualify based on their Pro Point standings, which are determined by results from MLG Pro Circuit events, online tournaments, and online ladders.
The move is part of a broader effort to make esports and, by association, MLG, into household terms.
The X Games event “will help further bring MLG to the mainstream,” Don Reilley, the company’s executive vice president in charge of sales, explained in a press release announcing the partnership.
Reilly's statement echoed the rhetoric from company cofounder and president Mike Sepso last week, when MLG announced would be building a gaming arena in China.
"This is yet another step in our plan to make esports and MLG a part of mainstream culture worldwide,” Sepso said.
The X Games Invitational will begin with two, four team double elimination groups. After group play the top two teams from each group will proceed to the semifinals bracket. Losers of the first semifinals match will go on to play for the X Games bronze medal while the winners will go on to play for gold and silver.
ESPN has dipped its toes into competitive gaming in the past. From 2005 to 2008, the network ran a reality show called Madden Nation, centered around the popular football game series. The partnership with MLG might be a tentative step towards further involvement with the esports industry, whose biggest tournaments bring in tens of millions of viewers.
Tickets for the three-day X Games run for $89, but upgrades to the MLG event will cost an additional $100. The upgrade entitles the purchaser reserved seating in the MLG tent, tours, and the opportunity to meet the Call of Duty: Ghost pro players.
Highlights of the tournament, which runs June 6 through 8, will air on ESPN and ABC, while the entirety of the tournament will be streamed on MLG’s streaming platform, MLG.tv.