One of the most popular genres in gaming is finally moving to the console market—and, thanks to a deal announced today, it’s esports scene is, too.
Smite, a multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA) game like League of Legends that features a third person control scheme similar to a shooter and fashions players as gods from myth and legend, will become the first major title in its genre released on the console when it hits Xbox One.
And that’s a big deal—the MOBA genre may be the biggest in gaming. Tens of millions of people play League of Legends and Dota 2 every day, and the events host tournaments worth millions of dollars. Smite is the third most popular game in the genre, but its control scheme, similar to first person shooters, makes it uniquely suitable for play with a controller. The move to Xbox promises to bring one of the most successful game genres of the past half decade to a new audience, with potentially explosive results.
And HiRez Studios, the game’s developer, wants to be ready for the growth of a potential esports scene. It’s already built a thriving one for its PC audience.
Last year, HiRez Studios hosted a $2.6 million (a sum raised largely through crowdfunding) World Championship for its PC players to close out a year of esports action. This year the studio has a similar event scheduled for Jan. 7 to 10, but to get there, at least on console, players must compete in MLG.
Beginning on Aug. 22, online qualifiers, using the MLG pro point system, first developed in games like Halo and Call of Duty, will feed into a Pro League Qualifier event hosted at the MLG World Finals in New Orleans on Oct. 16 to 18, with $25,000 on the line. From there, Smite, which already features a pro league for PC competition, will begin its own Xbox Pro League, running through November.
Then the MLG Arena in Columbus will host the Smite NA Pro League Finals Dec. 4 to 6, with the top team qualifying for the World Championship itself and winning the largest chunk of $50,000.
The structure is similar to the competitive circuit HiRez Studios runs in-house for its PC competition. But console gaming is uncharted waters, and MLG is the entity with the infrastructure to support it.
It’s a match made in heaven for the game featuring players as gods. And it just might be the start of a new esports phenomenon.
Screenshot via HiRez Studios