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The Growth of Major League Gaming

Major League Gaming (MLG) was founded in 2002 by Sundance DiGiovanni and Mike Sepso, and over the last ten years, they have grown from simple beginnings with a few hundred viewers to a juggernaut of streaming video, famous teams and players, prize pools in the millions of dollars, and hundreds of thousands of viewers for major championship games.

Current Stats

MLG currently has more than 8 million registered gamers and broadcasts its events and other streams to hundreds of thousands of fans in more than 170 countries. Their numbers are definitely up since our post in 2008 about MLG San Diego. According to Comscore, the demographics for MLGs streaming audience is mostly male (85%), and 60% of them are between the ages of 18 and 49. The survey also found that many of them are in the affluent income range, with 40% making more than $100,000 a year. In other words, a major portion of the audience is not the stereotypical basement-dweller without anything better to do. Instead, these are people who work in high-paying, professional jobs and simply enjoy watching truly competitive play between skilled players.

Growth in 2012

2012 was the year that eSports in general, and MLG specifically, saw a huge increase in viewership. During the 2012 Pro Circuit, MLG generated 334% growth in live online viewers, and in total, they had more than 11.7 million unique viewers over the four Pro Circuit Championship weekends. Just one year before, they had a “mere” 3.5 million viewers for the same series. According to MLG, that added up to more than 15 million hours of live online video.

That was just the start of the growth in 2012, however. The Spring Championship, the 60th Pro Circuit Event, was held in Anaheim, California on June 8th-10th and reached more than 4.7 million unique viewers. It peaked at 437,000 concurrent views. These are the kinds of numbers that many regular TV shows would love to have. It wasn’t all online, more than 20,000 fans showed up to watch the event live at the Anaheim Convention Center.

Why the Sudden Interest?

One of the most probable reasons for this sudden rise in popularity could be attributed to the games that are now part of the regular lineup. For years, eSports had been limited to a couple of popular FPSs (Halo being the most common), some fighting games, and the original StarCraft (well, the Brood Wars expansion, anyway). When StarCraft 2 was released a couple years ago, that injected some fresh interest in competitive play. MLG even made a deal with the Korean professional league to bring some of their best players over and include them in the tournaments. This, in effect, added a new layer of competition and showed a lot of players exactly how much they needed to practice in order to play at a professionally competitive level.

This year, though, it had to be Riot Games’ League of Legends that helped push eSports a little further into the mainstream. These MOBA games were seemingly built with eSports in mind, and League of Legends, on its own, has become the most played game in the world. There are nearly 32 million players a month, which means there are a lot of people out there interested in seeing other players performing at such a high level.

Whether it’s the lineup of games, the top-ranked players, or just the new acceptance of a fun pastime, MLG is still growing and introducing new people to the world of competitive, professional gaming.

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