It’s hard to believe that the 2011 season for Major League Gaming is already underway. It seems like only yesterday that we were watching the final matches of Halo 3, World of Warcraft, Super Street Fighter, Call of Duty, and Tekken at the finals last November. With the pages closed on the first event of the season, let’s take a moment to highlight some of the big changes that have happened between seasons, share some opinions of the first event, and glimpse at some of the exciting things to look forward to for the remainder of 2011.
As many of you know, in previous years at the live tournaments, there was one main stage area with limited stadium style bleacher seating that hosted the hottest matches and focused primarily on the Halo franchise, MLG’s cornerstone game that they focused their effort on for years. There was a smaller sub stage that typically hosted the next biggest game’s premier matches, this secondary stage had hosted Gears of War, Call of Duty, and Tekken primarily in the past few years. Then there was an alternate arena that had been used for the World of Warcraft PvP tournament, and was clearly shifting to Starcraft II as the crowds that were watching these matches kept growing after SCII was introduced to the circuit. Sundance DiGiovanni, MLG’s CEO, has been talking about equal exposure for the games that they were looking to focus on for 2011(Halo Reach, CoD Black Ops, and Starcraft II). This goal was expressed multiple times and through multiple channels towards the end of the 2010 season, and leading up to the season opener in Dallas. In preparation for this new season, the MLG team made some significant changes in the layout for their live events this year. What we saw when we walked in hit that target right on the mark.
As you walked into the season opener, you couldn’t help but notice that the event size had grown significantly. MLG added nearly double the gaming stations for bracket play which left a much larger footprint than previous years. There was increased room between rows of stations for spectators to watch the matches, and the stadium style main stage was removed completely. The removal of that main stage left a clear visible view to the now three main stages that were listed side by side from nearly anywhere inside the venue. One thing that we couldn’t find at first glance was the live broadcast area which had previously been poised at the top of the main stage structure that was now completely removed, with much of the tech gear running alongside the single main stage. We found an entirely new, sports center-esque series of broadcast booths and what can only be described as an insane amount of broadcast gear in the back of the production area. Look forward to some high quality production value broadcasts from the events as the year progresses and everyone gets settled into the new layout.
One other major change that was implemented for the first event was the new pool system for team elimination. We heard two very distinct opinions talking to players around the venue and through feedback from our twitter feed. Either the players loved it or they hated it. The biggest reason that we heard from people that loved it was that it gave players outside of the “top” teams a better chance at proving what they’ve got and making it into the later rounds of the tournament. This lead to a crazy amount of upsets of some of the existing top teams, and put a lot more stress on the players to perform at their best each and every game. So if you’re looking to make an appearance at one or more of the events this year and missed the season opener, be warned, you will be put to the test.
Congrats go out to all the winners, especially the guys from Status Quo, who took home their first event win. Ya’ll keep an eye on them as a newly Red Bull sponsored team. They’re likely a force to be reckoned with this season.
We also had the opportunity to see many familiar faces: from players, sponsors, and staff to attendees. We also got to meet some new folks around the venue as well, and look forward to seeing everyone again in Columbus!
Be sure to check out the rest of our event pictures on the Astro Gaming Facebook page.