This week we had a chance to chat with Sundance DiGiovanni, CEO of MLG, on the past, present, and future of eSports. Read on to learn who he likes to watch, what he sees as being the biggest games for eSports in 2013, and where eSports could go in the next five years.
PC Gamer: If you had to sum up MLG's performance this year in 50 words or less, what would you say?
Sundance DiGiovanni, CEO of MLG: This year we have built upon our successes while learning lessons from our mistakes. We have grown our core audience by 334% by remaining true to our vision and core values. Basically—we've kicked ass, and set ourselves up for continued growth and success.
What was MLG's biggest achievement this year? What do you want to improve on in 2013?
DiGiovanni: It's hard to choose just one great triumph. I think 2012 was a great year from us and there were so many highlights including our addition of Arena events, collaboration with other leagues including KeSPA and bringing Pro League players to US tournaments for the first time, and of course our success in introducing eSports to a broader audience through live streaming. However, there is always room for improvement. The one thing I most want to improve on is creating a platform where pro-players and even aspiring up-and-coming pros are able to further their careers and increase their earning potentials.
What and who are your personal favorite eSports, players, and teams to follow?
DiGiovanni: This year I have really enjoyed watching Flash . It has been incredible to watch him take on and improve at StarCraft II at our competitions. My second favorite player to watch is probably NaNiwa when he's playing well—or IdrA . When IdrA plays well it's great to watch.
What do you see as being the biggest eSports game in 2013, and why?
SD: I think we can expect more growth and investment from Riot and League of Legends and Blizzard has big things planned for 2013 with Heart of the Swarm. Call of Duty is poised to have a breakout year as well. I also think 2013 is going to be a big year for Sony Online Entertainment with PlanetSide 2. I am excited to see what happens with that title. There are a handful of other titles that may sneak up on people—the great thing is that developers are now developing with eSports in mind—it gives us a much stronger playing field of titles to work with.
What's your "elevator pitch" for eSports for our readers who might not get it, or haven't embraced it yet?
SD: If you like to be entertained, enjoy gaming, and appreciate competition, than you must check out eSports. I think most people get hung up on whether gaming truly is a “sport,” however that is not what we are aiming to prove here. Our vision has always been to present gaming like sport and we have borrowed on concepts from traditional sports leagues. As people begin to embrace that notion, I think they will have more fun being entertained by our programming and competition.
Is there anything you think eSports organizers or fans are ignoring or neglecting right now that could drive things forward if we paid more attention to it?
SD: We need to make it easier for people to find and become fans of eSports. We currently have an amazing community and they live and breathe eSports, but in order for us to get to a point where we are truly realizing our potential we need to create more hooks. Hooks that appeal not only to the current audience, but hooks that will help us draw in new generations of fans. We want the next generation to grow up viewing eSports as a global phenomenon that is on the same level as the NFL, European Football, the NBA and other global sports media businesses.
Where do you realistically see eSports five years from now, and what would be your wildest dream in the same timeframe?
SD: If we continue to execute properly and more structure is introduced to the scene, I see eSports rivaling the UFC within 5 years. There's no reason that we can't rival even the NFL eventually, we just need to continue to evolve while growing our scene and focusing on sustainability.
Check out MLG's full December programming schedule to find out what's going on in the world of eSports this month. StarCraft II fans may want to tune in tonight to see Flash fight Rain in the MLG Tournament of Champions