Major League Gaming prepares for the next generation of consoles

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The next generation of consoles is approaching quickly and Major League Gaming is ready for it. But how long will the league wait before implementing next-gen games into its tournament series? Despite the hype surrounding the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, the player base on the new consoles is guaranteed to start out relatively small. Is that a concern for the league?

To find out, Digital Trends spoke once again with MLG co-founder and president Mike Sepso. The last time Sepso chatted with Digital Trends, he emphasized that he envisions a future in which MLG becomes one of the top five sports in the United States. To reach that goal the league has to stay on top of what its players want, and he understands that means adopting games on the next-gen consoles for competitive play “very quickly” upon their release.

“Our user base, our audience, our players—they’ve already all purchased both consoles,” Sepso said. “They’re going to be standing in line waiting to pick it up on day one. So it’s really less about install base. It’s more about, like, have they had enough time to practice the game?”

MLG partnered with game streaming company Twitch this year for all its online broadcasting needs, and at E3 Twitch announced that it had partnered with Microsoft for hardware-level integration on the Xbox One. MLG, meanwhile, has working relationships with both Microsoft and Sony. The organization even works directly with Sony Online Entertainment to influence the development of Planetside 2. Does Twitch’s partnership with Microsoft present a potential conflict for the league?

“We’ve never really picked one [console] over the other,” Sepso said, adding that MLG sees a three-platform competitive gaming landscape: PlayStation, Xbox, and PC. Mobile might eventually become a fourth platform, if it ever becomes a home for competitive gaming. “I think we go to the best platform for the best game,” he said. “We’ve been able—I think—to be a really good partner to both Microsoft and Sony over the years, and we’re in a unique position in that most of our user base… is going to buy both consoles.”

Xbox One vs PlayStation 4 Controllers

Besides, Twitch may not be the optimal streaming partner for MLG. They have a “delicate” relationship, Sepso said, because of the differences between the two services. “When you spend ten million dollars [a year] to produce video content you don’t necessarily want it sitting next to, you know, some kid in sweatpants in his basement streaming or whatever, without any content control and production value,” he said of broadcasting MLG’s content on Twitch. “It’s sort of akin to HBO putting Game of Thrones and True Blood on next to cable access.”

“It’s sort of akin to HBO putting Game of Thrones and True Blood on next to cable access.”

“Our advertisers pay a very substantial premium to put their ad messages in and around our content because we spend a lot of money on it and we attract a very big audience, and we need to be careful with that differentiation,” he continued, adding that Twitch is in “a different ballpark” when it comes to content quality.

Sepso’s words give the sense that Twitch may not be MLG’s ideal streaming partner moving forward, though he was careful to point out that “they’ve been very supportive to date of helping us differentiate while still being on their platform.” Still, it seems that there’s at least a willingness to explore other opportunities. The coming hardware generation and its “always connected” focus ought to be rife with them.

Consider the PlayStation 4’s mysterious “Share” button, which will allow users to upload footage captured directly from games right to Facebook and Ustream, another streaming service. What else might the button do? How exactly does it work? Is it something MLG can take advantage of?

“Can’t comment on it,” Sepso said.

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