Sign Of The Times: How MLG Is Making A Spectator Sport Out Of Video Games

Amongst the many ways that you could describe it, you could say that Major League Gaming is very much one of Generation-Y's true hidden jewels, amongst a host of trends that may shine, but are far from gold. It is much like a cult classic, you have to be in and a part of it, a part of the hype and buzz around it, to realize just how big it truly is.

Once you've taken a peek inside the competitive video-gaming world, noticed the millions of enthralled viewers that rush to stream many of this world's tournaments and then take a "hold on a minute" pause to consider the rapid growth of technology, you'll probably come to realize that MLG co-founders Sundance DiGiovanni and Mike Sepso, along with their 8 million members, are not just sitting on something great, they're leaning back as their Halo-loving, Call of Duty-embracing enterprise rises to a peak that is very much in sight.

"We are continuing to expand our broadcast offering with daily competitive gaming programming airing at, while rolling out new types of tournaments and introducing new games like Dota 2 into the MLG landscape," Elite Daily was told in an email interview with the two entrepreneurs. "We listen to our community, closely monitor new games and what competitive gamers are gravitating toward and evolve."

Major League Gaming, for the unaware, is an electronic sports organization that holds professional video gaming tournaments across North America and produces content revolving around the pro circuit. Since its inception in 2002, MLG's programming has appeared on, G4 TV and Spike.

MLG has always made its fair share of noise, but recently CEO DiGiovanni and president Sepso have set out on a concrete mission that will make their presence much harder to miss amongst sports fans. This summer, the gaming league announced that it would begin rolling out 6-10 hours of original content every week as it seeks to grow a model that is sure to grow closer and closer to an ESPN-like schedule, but for gaming.

In short, the two entrepreneurs are treating Major League Gaming exactly as what they feel it is: a legit sports competition contested within a legit sporting league. It's the type of statement that you might be tempted to say is very 2013-y. After all, in an age during which original programs can debut online on Netflix and sitcoms are shown exclusively Hulu, it could be argued that alternative programming on the internet is become the norm.

That viewpoint would, however, take away from the credit that MLG deserves. For it's one thing to quickly seize an opportunity after noticing a generational change, it's another completely incredible thing entirely to have the foresight and the business acumen to see that change coming a mile away and believe in it enough to bet the success of a company on it, which is exactly what the two co-founders say they did.

"Having been video game players since we were kids and entrepreneurs in the technology and broadband space, we quickly saw the major tech trends of the late ‘90s and early 2000s and realized we had an opportunity to build something completely new ...We modeled our business on the success of traditional sports leagues and leveraged the growth of broadband to really spearhead and build a spectator sport for the digital generation."

Now, a decade after at work, the materialization of two partners' vision is there for everyone to see. The league has a reach like all others (their programming can reach up to 170 countries), provides excitement like all others, provides play-by-play analysis like all others and employs expertise of former athletes to help further development like any other. There's just one big difference: MLG has a fan base that is truly like no other.

"I think the really interesting characteristic of the majority of our 8 million member MLG community, is that not only do they watch the best of the best compete, but they compete as well. Gaming in the MLG world is truly participatory. The barrier to entry within the competitive gaming space is low – any player of any skill level can log on to our MLG: Play site and compete against fellow gamers across the globe at any time."

Major League Gaming hasn't necessarily "made it" yet, nor does the company expect to any time soon -- DiGiovanni told Forbes in March that he only expects eSports to be mainstream in ten years. But the enterprise has come a long way, from the company that was first given speculative looks to an entity that is wholeheartedly embraced by the gaming community and catered to by the industry.

"We have faced our fair share of challenges during the evolution of MLG.  At the beginning, we were approaching publishers and developers and convincing them that they should work with us.  Now we have partnerships with the top companies in the video game industry and they are coming us to ensure their games are front and center within the MLG ecosystem."

Major League Gaming (MLG) recently announced the next event in the MLG Pro Circuit – the MLG Fall Invitational. Taking place at Full Sail University on October 18 and 19, the MLG Fall Invitational marks the Pro Circuit debut of DOTA 2 and continues the competitive tournaments for Call of Duty: Black Ops II.

Following the Fall Invitational, the Pro Circuit will continue with the next MLG Championship event from November 22-24 in Columbus, Ohio.