By Michelle McGuinness of MSN News
Major League Gaming, a professional electronic sports organization, said people who watched its winter championship tuned in for longer than people who watched February’s Super Bowl.
Millions of people tuned in last weekend, enthralled by a competition that held their attention for longer than even the Super Bowl did:
The Major League Gaming (MLG) Winter Championship.
Surprised? MLG isn’t.
Competitive video game tournaments are drawing huge numbers of viewers, dishing out massive prizes, attracting advertisers and becoming the latest and greatest in professional sports.
MLG said in a press release that its winter championship in Dallas last weekend garnered 2.6 million unique viewers, each of whom tuned in for an average of 150 minutes – a figure that blows away the 38 minutes the average Super Bowl viewer spends watching the game. Over three days, 1,000 of the world’s best video game players battled for $170,000 in prizes.
MLG streams video game tournaments entirely online, something they say gives them a flexibility traditional sports don’t have. The match-ups feature professional teams wearing jerseys splashed with advertisers’ logos. There are even commercials during the online streams and announcers calling the matches in games like “StarCraft,” “League of Legends” and “Call of Duty.”
Courtesy of Major League Gaming: Enrique Espinoza. Major League Gaming: A player who goes by the name Life won MLG’s “StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm” tournament last weekend. IMAGE
“It’s become much less of a leap of faith for marketers to partner with us,” said Sundance DiGiovanni, CEO of MLG.
According to the press release, MLG’s audience is young (18-34) and overwhelmingly male (85 percent).
“Very few marketing platforms resonate as strongly with that demographic as we do,” DiGiovanni said. “When they’re trying to reach 18-34-year-old males, we’re a really good buy.”
So far, companies like Dr. Pepper, NOS energy drinks and Turtle Beach have been happy to associate themselves with the world of competitive video games. This may be because people are clicking on the ads they see during gaming tournaments.
“One of the great things that we have is an audience that understands that they can support the activity by supporting the advertiser,” DiGiovanni said.
He said he expects MLG to have a record-breaking year in 2013 in terms of overall audience.
DiGiovanni said he sees competitive gaming becoming mainstream in perhaps as few as two or three years. With that, he said, he sees MLG’s demographic naturally broadening and including more female viewers.
“Everything that’s mainstream starts off with folks that are a targeted and passionate community,” he said. “The bubble of this being something that is underground or niche is about to pop.”