Any opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of compLexity Gaming or its parent company.
Last Friday, Sundance DiGiovanni, the CEO of MLG, tweeted “Twitter and Reddit nation. StarCraft on ESPN2… Would you tune in? I am sitting with a TV exec who wants to know. You’ve got an hour.” Both the Reddit post and tweet had splendid feedback. Not all of the feedback was positive, but there was constructive feedback mixed in with the negative comments.
Since the beta, the SC2 community has had thousands of tournament matches and millions of games streamed live online. Streaming is something that the gaming community has perfected, and it a comfortable method of providing tournament coverage. In today’s market, it’s easy to get online viewers for any tournament, even the smaller ones. When the local, Edmonton SC2 tournaments were streamed in early 2011, the tournament would have approximately 1000 viewers at a time. As long as the production quality is good and the players are known, it’s simple for a tournament to get viewers.
Moving to television would be a big step outside of the comfort of online streaming. There are no guarantees of view numbers or that eSports fans would even consider tuning in. As someone who neither owns a television nor has cable, I won’t be trading in streaming for ESPN2, but I do think that some SC2 fans would watch MLG on ESPN2. There are both positives and negatives for this move, and MLG has to decide if the risk is worth it.
The biggest concern is that a number of individuals is bringing up is that MLG on television has to be done right. It’s a fragile experiment that could either encourage eSports to be on more television channels or detour other channels from ever considering eSports in the future. This won’t be competitive gaming’s first foray onto American television, but the most memorable moments in the relationship between the two was WCG Ultimate Gamer. That show did not leave the best of aftertastes. I’m no expert on channel scheduling or show production, but I know one of the other major concerns was how to properly schedule SC2 games around conventional show norms like commercial breaks and time slots. Unlike hockey periods which run for 20 minutes, a SC2 game could be shorter than 10 minutes or longer than 60 minutes. I can only imagine the logistical nightmare of putting eSports events on a sports network.
I work at a family restaurant where sports channels are played on the lounge’s televisions screens. Because of the layout of the restaurant, you can see at least one of the five screens from any seat in the house. The standard football, hockey and poker games are often on the televisions, but I have seen my fair share of obscure sports from cliff jump to darts. ESPN even airs the US National Gr. 8 Spelling Bee. In order to be on a sports channel, the game does not have to be mainstream. On a basic level, having MLG on television will expose more people to eSports. I had no idea cliff jumping was such an organized competition and community until I saw it on television at work. I know people who have never played video games would be exposed to competitive gaming just with it being on a television network.
In order to watch SC2 with friends in a public venue, it needs to be planned. The BarCraft at Rouge Lounge in Edmonton for MLG Raleigh required a significant amount of planning and set up. Screens had to be brought it, projectors had to be rented, the bar had to be packed to prove it was worth it… It was not easy. It was worth it, and the numbers were impressive, but it was not easy. If MLG was aired on ESPN2, it opens up more possibilities for BarCraft as well as for groups of friends simply wanting to watch SC2 at a bar. Ten friends showing up at an empty restaurant on a Sunday afternoon would most likely be obliged if they ask to watch ESPN2 while having a few beers. That is not possible with online streaming unless restaurant is set up for BarCraft events. The number of venues possible for SC2 events drastically increases when the games can simply be watched on cable.
I’d love to introduce more of my friends and family to competitive SC2, and having SC2 on television would make that a bit easier. Not that it’s hard to begin with, but it would be easier. My apartment is set up for friends to watch games when they come to my house, but how much easier would it be to simply turn on the channel at my parent’s house to watch SC2 with them? The only time my dad watched SC2 was in a hotel lobby on a small laptop. Not ideal for introducing someone to the GSL. I’m sure there are other individuals who would love to have the opportunity to watch MLG on their living room television without having to drag a computer tower down a flight of stairs while tripping over cables.
MLG on a major sports network would be great exposure for eSports. I’m hoping that it’s something that both ESPN and MLG research and seriously consider before jumping into or deciding against. There are numerous pros and cons which the thousands of replies to Reddit brought up, and all of them must be weighed before decisions should be made. Either way, I won’t be heartbroken or ecstatic, but I would love if ESPN looking into the idea before immediately dismissing it, and I would love if MLG took the time to get it right. MLG on ESPN2 could be the start of something great.
After years of playing World of Warcraft, a friend introduced Jacqueline to Starcraft early last year. Jacqueline’s relationship with Starcraft started out slowly: a handful of casual dates, a little bit of flirting but nothing serious. She took her relationship with the game to the next level after BlizzCon 2010 where she experienced eSports magic first-hand and realized that Starcraft was the one. Despite being a mediocre player, she has been clambering the ladder at a glacial pace and has spent more time watching Starcraft online than she’d like to admit. In March, Jacqueline made the leap from eSports fan to eSports professional when she was hired by the Handsome Nerd as their Art Director, combining her design skills with her love of Starcraft. Since its start in April, Jacqueline has been a contributing writer for the North American Star League, writing coverage for Division 1. Offline, Jacqueline is a bookworm, a runner, a freeride snowboarder and has a Human Ecology degree with a Clothing and Textiles major.