A Call of Duty pro player is now streaming on Twitch.
That may not sound like news, but after a move by Major League Gaming (MLG) and its streaming platform MLG.tv to corner the game’s live video market last year, it could be an important shift in the landscape. Especially considering the player.
One year ago, the player was embroiled in a controversy over MLG.tv and its restrictions on streaming Call of Duty Pro League matches. At the time, Polchow was a member of Evil Geniuses, the most dominant team in Call of Duty history. But Evil Geniuses had a streaming deal with Twitch.tv, leading to a conflict when MLG decreed that matches in MLG competitions, including the Pro League, which drew the most viewers, could only be streamed on its MLG.tv platform.
That lead to a battle between the game’s strongest team and its biggest competition. While Patrick “ACHES” Price, the team’s captain, was the lightingrod for the disagreement, eventually getting suspended after he implored his fans to push MLG CEO Sundance DiGiovanni to revoke restrictions, Polchow was squarely in the middle of the debacle.
It’s a big debate for Call of Duty, an esport that sometimes seems to have an inferiority complex considering its competitive community is small compared to the large base of Call of Duty players. The game was a rising star on Twitch, with players like Matt “NaDeSHoT” Haag pulling numbers equaling even the most watched League of Legends streamers. But after the community switch to MLG.tv, in part due to it offering lucrative exclusive deals to top players and in part due the streaming restriction placed on MLG events, the viewer counts dropped.
In some ways, the game can’t afford to move away from MLG.
Streaming on Twitch opens a broadcaster to a huge potential audience. Millions load the Twitch homepage and might click on a game with a big viewer count to see what’s going on. Streaming on MLG.tv limits opportunites for others to discover your stream.
The relationships between Call of Duty and MLG is both symbiotic and parasitic. MLG hosts the game’s biggest leagues and provides it with regular competition, which likely requires its MLG.tv platform to pull in some revenue to fund it. In some ways, the game can’t afford to move away from MLG.
But with his contract up, Polchow is once again free to stream elsewhere, and Twitch seems to be his platform of choice. About two hours after he resurrected his stream on Twitch, which features more than 3 million total views and 52,000 followers from a bygone era, he told about 200 viewers that he’d be sticking with it—swapping platforms is too much work, he said.
Of course, with YouTube Gaming entering the fray as another challenger to Twitch, the services of Polchow, a likable and charismatic everyman who also happens to be a skilled pro gamer, may be in demand. And that could command a new exclusive deal, whether with Twitch or someone else.
In some ways it may be the right time for the Call of Duty and MLG to untangle their knot. In fact those MLG Pro League matches, the key point of contention in the Evil Geniuses and MLG dispute last year, are not being broadcast at all after MLG decided to take its Pro League offline due to a rash of Distributed Denial of Service attacks. Plus, the environment itself is changing. The MLG World Finals take place at New Orleans in October, and it’s the last big Call of Duty tournament of the—and the last one before the upcoming release of Call of Duty: Black Ops 3.
MLG.tv’s streaming portfolio now includes more than just Call of Duty, with Dota 2 and Counter-Strike also featured on the platform. Plus it looks like MLG may be returning to the series they grew up with next year, Halo. The announcement of the Halo World Championship earlier this month listed MLG (and ESL and Twitch) as a partner.
Either way, Polchow is streaming on Twitch. Whether he’s just a pro making a statement or the start of a trend, who knows. Fans remain supportive: “TeeP’s Army,” as he dubs his subscribers, grew to 20 people about an hour into his stream. It won’t be easy to convert his audience to a new platform for a second time, but he’s committed to it.
Screengrab via ComplexityINSIDER/YouTube