Over the past few years, eSports have grown from a small niche following to a semi-major market. With games like Dota 2 and the Call of Duty gaining immense followings, it was mostly a matter of time before it became truly mainstream. That seems to have happened this week with ESPN's coverage of Valve's The International, a Dota 2 championship with almost $11 million in prizes.
The coverage was available through the company's online offering, ESPN3, with a special documentary airing on ESPN 2. An unnamed source said that the top viewing platform was the Xbox app, which is interesting considering the tournament is for a PC game. I guess that shows the power of Microsoft's media-game hybrid console approach.
Fortunately, as the source says, the company was "delighted" with the broadcast results. In fact, they are planning on increasing their future offerings based on these results. According to the unnamed source,
ESPN have seen enough recent successes with esports and are about to double down. The numbers they hit with The International have only cemented the view that the time is right.
ESPN's next eSports-related project is Major League Gaming's Call of Duty league. After their last partnership at the Austin X Games, where no games were broadcast, combined with a successful broadcast of The International, it is possible that this time around we could see some real coverage of MLG from ESPN. The source said,
They are in advanced talks to bring that product to both ESPN web properties as well as their TV stations, and they are in the preliminary stages of looking at other games.
Unfortunately, ESPN is not corroborating these statements, but they are also not ruling it out.
ESPN3 has carried similar events in the past, including MLG and EA. We recognized The International as an opportunity to deliver a championship event, but have not committed to any other eSports coverage at this time.
Whether or not they decide to produce live coverage of the next MLG tournament, even discussing the possibility is a great step for eSports in the mainstream.