The MLG is Making a Big Push for e-Sports in the U.S.

Professional gaming in the U.S. still caters to a very small audience. The folks at Major League Gaming are making some big changes this year to better serve their existing fanbase and to attract a whole new one.

The MLG has finally revealed its plans for the 2011 season, and they’re absolutely enormous. First off, the event has been narrowed to focus on three games: ‘Halo: Reach’, ‘StarCraft II’, and ‘Call of Duty: Black Ops’. That’s two first-person-shooters (FPS), one real-time-strategy (RTS), and nothing else.

Fans of ‘Tekken’ and ‘Super Smash Bros.’ (both were cut from the lineup) may cry foul, but this means that the MLG is able to focus on the biggest games with the most robust competitive scenes. It also means refocusing the company’s spending and prize payouts.

‘Halo: Reach’ and ‘StarCraft II’ players will have a chance to earn some big money this year. During each of the five regular-season events, ‘Halo: Reach’ teams can win up to $20,000 to split between their four players. ‘StarCraft’ players will be able to pull in $5,000 for themselves.

During the national championship, ‘Halo Reach’ teams will be competing for a grand prize of $100,000 – or $25,000 each. That’s not bad for two or three days worth of gaming. ‘Starcraft 2’ players can take home a grand prize of $50,000. Prizes for ‘Call of Duty: Black Ops’ have not yet been announced.

All that money is exciting, but the really big news is that the MLG is going to include a main stage for each of the tournaments this year for the high-profile matches. It’s a huge step up from last year, where even the finals of ‘StarCraft II’ took place on a folding table in the middle of a group of folding tables. There was no ceremony outside of the players walking from the crowd area to the table.

For the sake of comparison, the Korean ‘StarCraft II’ finals featured a single stage in the middle of a stadium. The players rose from under the stage, music blared, lights shone, and the crowd went nuts.

This year, the MLG wants a bit of spectacle. “Whether Dallas 2011 will be your first or 50th Pro Circuit Live Competition,” says Kyle Magee from the MLG, “we want your jaw to drop when you walk into the venue.”

I couldn’t be happier about the changes, and I’m looking forward to watching the first MLG event of 2011 live on April 1-3. Even more exciting is that they’ll be hitting Columbus in June, which is close enough for me to attend in person. I’ll have some more posts up before the event, but make sure you check it out when it airs. This year is going to be huge for competitive gaming.

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