About Major League Gaming (MLG)

Founded in 2002, Major League Gaming (MLG) (www.majorleaguegaming.com) is the dominant media property exclusively targeting tens of millions of consumers worldwide who have a passion for playing video games as a competitive social activity. The company gives aspiring gamers around the world an opportunity to compete, improve their skills, and socialize through a thriving competitive community with more than 750,000 matches each month online and LIVE in-person Pro Circuit tournaments in cities nationwide.

They’re looking to hire a graphic designer. They also laid off a bunch of people last month.

Sorry, cheap shot, I digress; that’s just where I pulled the snippet above from. I’ve seen it jammed in press release after posting after press release since first being aware of MLG. It’s customary pomp and circumstance that usually fades into the background, ‘right, right, of course, get on with it’ nonsense. But this time it read somewhat awkward.

The league itself has changed quite a bit since 2002, this elevator pitch has been left unchanged for some time. Is it really still reflective of what we know as MLG today?

It’d be hard to argue that Starcraft wasn’t the driving force behind 2011’s circuit. Did all those people show up to watch Call of Duty? Ehhh, no. Did all those people show up to take part in Starcraft as a ‘competitive social activity’? Again, no, not really.

2011 saw a massive boost in raw spectatorship. People that play casually, or not really at all, were tuning in and showing up at events. Pundits calling 2011 ‘the year of the fan’ is certainly defensible.

This should be a watershed moment for MLG, one that would allow them an avenue towards redefinition as a pro sports league. It should come with a recognition that the notion of everyone following MLG being there to compete, Gamebattles being it’s chief manifestation, is an artifact of years past; a relic of what the league was, not is. The game at the center of MLG’s operations has such little activity on Gamebattles that calling it pathetic would be flattery. A ridiculously small portion of people that comprise MLG’s Starcraft following are interested in competing. Everyone else is here to watch.

I won’t say that 2012 is the year that MLG makes a hard pivot or doesn’t make it long-term. Even that’s too sensational for me. But I think it’s an important year strategically. I’m hardly alone in thinking there’s yet untapped potential in Starcraft. The question for me becomes this: how long does MLG allow the bulk of the other games riding their circuit to ride? Will they see that these games were simply scaffolding - not the completed structure - with what MLG could become now outlined in three dimensions before them?

They’re dismissive of IPL, but IPL is far leaner and laser focused on Starcraft as a top-level sport. And who’s to say a well-grounded, well-funded upstart doesn’t pop in and upstage them both?

The number of directions in which this year could go is near infinite, but the imperative for everyone this year is Darwinian. Everything is moving far too rapidly to stand still; fail to evolve at your own peril.

Can MLG?