It's official: Activision buys legendary eSports firm MLG

It's official: Activision buys legendary eSports company MLG

Mike Sepso co-based the eSports group Main League Gaming in 2002. In October 2015, he left MLG to work for Activision Blizzard — the studio behind Future, Name of Obligation and Hearthstone — as Senior Vice President of its new aggressive-gaming enterprise led by former ESPN CEO Steve Bornstein. Within the division’s first main transfer, Activision at the moment introduced its buy of MLG’s eSports employees and belongings in a deal reported to be value $forty six million. Sepso simply helped Activision purchase the enterprise he based thirteen years in the past.

Did he ever dream of ending up in a state of affairs like this?

“Nobody might have put that collectively,” Sepso tells me, laughing. “And should you’d requested me 4 months in the past, I might have stated no.”

Activision is diving into the eSports enterprise full-pressure in 2016. It now owns MLG’s eSports belongings, which means it controls its software program, websites, livestreaming methods and broadcast know-how because it pertains to skilled and aggressive gaming. Activision additionally absorbed all of MLG’s eSports employees, together with co-founder Sundance DiGiovanni.

“The rumors of Sundance’s demise are incorrect, truly,” Sepso says. DiGiovanni would have been on the decision with Sepso, however he was flying again from trip on the time (and doubtless checking Twitter rather a lot, since stories of this deal broke over the New Yr’s vacation).

“He is primarily going to proceed what he is been doing, however with out the complications that come together with operating an unbiased enterprise in eSports,” Sepso says. “Actually targeted on serving to our staff construct out one of the best eSports content material on the earth and overseeing our public-dealing with model. He is type of the hotline to the group.”

Underneath the MLG banner, Sepso and DiGiovanni launched the primary-ever televised eSports competitors in 2006 with the Halo 2 Professional Collection on USA Community. Since then, they’ve labored to publicize and legitimize skilled gaming for a mainstream viewers, internet hosting tournaments and broadcasting occasions that includes aggressive Name of Obligation, StarCraft, Halo, League of Legends and Counter-Strike tournaments, amongst different feats. MLG owns an eSports area in Ohio and it has a livestreaming enterprise, MLG.television.

Followers of MLG’s providers and competitions should not fret simply but — Sepso says that it must be enterprise as normal, at the least for some time.

“They are not going to see a ton of modifications as a result of we will proceed to work with different publishers,” Sepso says. “We’re nonetheless going to supply the CS:GO main in Ohio with Valve. We will proceed to construct that relationship, and we plan to proceed working with all the publishers that we will, not simply Activision and Blizzard.”

Activision is not trying to change what MLG does, essentially, however it might increase it.

Our acquisition of Main League Gaming’s enterprise furthers our plans to create the ESPN of eSports,” Activision CEO Bobby Kotick says in a press launch. “MLG’s capacity to create premium content material, its confirmed broadcast know-how platform — together with its reside streaming capabilities — strengthens our strategic place in aggressive gaming.”

As we speak, Sepso focuses on this concept of “premium eSports content material,” too. Whereas websites like Twitch and YouTube, and professional gaming leagues just like the ESL, are companions in Activision’s eSports enterprise, there are nonetheless some holes out there left to fill. Rival writer EA is even getting in on the sport with its personal eSports division, and indie studios are coming round as properly.

“Premium content material,” in Activision’s case, isn’t just like the consumer-generated movies and streams featured on Twitch or YouTube Gaming, Sepso says. He imagines ESPN-degree endeavors — exhibits with excessive manufacturing values for skilled gaming, quite than conventional sports activities.

“There is a massive alternative within the premium content material and distribution area that is not serviced by the prevailing distribution platforms or content material creators,” Sepso says. “And I feel that is a spot — based mostly on our assets, that sort of one thing we will deliver to the desk in a really huge method. And I feel that is an enormous a part of ‘mainstreaming’ this entire sport and any such content material for a much bigger, extra mainstream viewers.”

[Picture credit score: Flickr/Colin Taber]