Interview with Sundance DiGiovanni, CEO of Major League Gaming
Sundance DiGiovanni, the CEO and co-founder of Major League Gaming, is quite possibly the hardest working man in North American eSports. He's taken the MLG from relatively small to the multimedia sensation that it has become today. We had a chance to catch up with him before this weekend's StarCraft II Spring Arena 1, which you can read more about here.
Dustin Steiner: How did the idea for Major League Gaming come into fruition? Was it a carefully planned growth, or was it something that just kind of took a life of its own before you knew it?
Sundance DiGiovanni: I have been involved with video games since playing them as a child and even worked at an arcade in High School. In the early 2000s my business partner and I thought there could be a scalable business in the competitive gaming space. Initially we focused on console titles with Halo becoming the driver for us. From there we put together a business plan and formally founded the company in 2002. It has been a lot of work, but we are extremely proud of how MLG has grown over the last 10 years.
DS: Assume I’ve never been to an eSports event or watched a tournament – what is the biggest thing you would want the non-initiated to take away from the experience?
SDG: MLG is modeled after traditional sport – everything from the bracket system to the event layout and the broadcast production is geared toward engaging and entertaining the players and the audience. Our partners activate booths and experiences for the attendees to visit during downtime between games. Whether you are an aspiring gamer or a novice, there is something for everyone.
DS: eSports has seen a massive surge in the past few years. Would you say this is solely because of the release and subsequent explosion of StarCraft II, or are there other games leading the charge?
SDG: eSports growth over the past few years has been incredible and I think it is due to a number of things – the global popularity of games like StarCraft II and League of Legends, as well as the introduction and ease of streaming technology. The ability to stream has significantly contributed to video gameplay becoming a spectator experience, while exposing eSports to a massive audience.
DS: Fighting games made their triumphant return to MLG last season, and appear to be going strong into this season with the announcement of the first Fighter Arena later this month. What has the Fighting Game Community done differently that convinced you to make the push this year?
SDG: Throughout the history of MLG we have featured fighting games on the Pro Circuit. The fighting game community has been supportive so far this year and we look forward to featuring the games at our first ever Fighting Game Arena on April 28 and the Spring Championship in Anaheim from June 8-10. In addition to community support, it was crucial to have support from Sony and the game publishers - Warner Brothers, Namco and Atlus.
DS: MLG’s new partnership with CBS Interactive has everyone talking – what will it mean for both the players participating in MLG events and for the spectators watching at home?
SDG: We are very excited about our new partnership with CBS Interactive. Spectators will now have more places to watch the live streams of our Pro Circuit events. Through the collaboration, CBS will be featuring our streams on GameSpot.com and you will see even more editorial coverage of our events on their site. What this means is that eSports is getting broader distribution and recognition which will ultimately expose the industry to even more people.
Thanks Sundance! Remember, you can tune into the StarCraft II Spring Arena 1 this weekend on MLG.com/live by purchasing one of many package options for the Spring season, or pay for the event a la carte. It's set to be an exciting tournament, for sure.
Dustin Steiner is GameZone's eSports Correspondent. Follow him on Twitter @SteinerDustin!