Some of the best Call of Duty pro teams in the world are gathering in Columbus, Ohio, this weekend, and they will have the honor of breaking in Major League Gaming’s first permanent venue.
The MLG Call of Duty: Ghosts Pro League Playoffs start today and continue through Sunday. Teams will compete for a piece of the $75,000 prize pool in front of a live audience at MLG.tv Arena. After announcing the Columbus location earlier this year, this is the debut event for the arena. MLG plans to hold e-sports competitions at the MLG.tv Arena throughout the year. The company will also use the building’s studio to host and broadcast original competitive-gaming shows to its website.
MLG has previously held a number of its Pro Circuit events in Columbus at the city’s largest convention center. The success of those events as well as the demographic makeup of the metropolitan area played a big part in the e-sports association’s decision to open a permanent arena.
To get things ready quickly, MLG did not construct its own building from the ground up. Instead, it took over an existing office space near the Columbus airport and completely renovated it for the purposes of e-sports. MLG’s team spent the last two months outfitting the location with technology to make the arena a state-of-the-art complex for playing competitive games professionally. It can sit 200 people in bleachers.
“Columbus has been a consistent site for our MLG Pro Circuit for nearly a decade,” MLG president and cofounder Mike Sepso told GamesBeat. “Being in a market with 62 colleges and universities, just a few miles from the [Ohio State] campus, it’s really an ideal location. As you know, in 2013, over 71 million people worldwide watched competitive gaming at events and through online streaming via sites like MLG.tv and one in five gamers in the U.S. watched or participated in e-sports.”
In late 2013, MLG relaunched its video site MLG.tv with a focus on broadcasting its own events. Sepso explained that this focus on video content has helped it grow its audience every single month, and that helped convince his team to build a permanent location to host competitions.
“We knew we needed a venue where we could hold tournaments on a regular basis and broadcast new, original content 24/7 in front of a live audience,” he said. “With the MLG.tv Arena, we now have the ability to spin up an awesome event or broadcast at any time without the constraints of booking a space or shipping and setting up all the equipment. It is built with tournaments and broadcasts in mind, so it makes it very easy to deliver consistent and regular events that we know players and fans will enjoy.”
While MLG calls it an “arena,” the venue itself is a lot more like a studio. Instead of 15,000-seat basketball arena, it has more in common with the kind of small-scale permanent studio arenas that Disney hosted World Championship Wrestling events in.
MLG says that it plans to start out by hosting monthly events in its new digs. As it settles into that schedule, it will increase the frequency of competitions.
“We had the unique opportunity to optimize the MLG.tv Arena from the ground up for eSports and I think players, spectators, and MLG.tv viewers are going to be impressed,” said Sepso. “We were also able to directly integrate the space with our MLG.tv streaming platform, so this will be an exciting launch for us.”
Fans will get a chance to see exactly what a permanent MLG Arena event looks like when groups like Team EnVyUs, Rise Nation, OpTic Gaming, OpTic Nation, FaZe, Denial eSports, Noble.VQ, and Most Wanted go to do battle for the top prize in Columbus.
Once MLG wraps up this Ghosts competition, players return Nov. 28 to Nov. 30 for the premiere tournament for Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare. The open competition will have $25,000 in prizes on the line for the first competition featuring publisher Activision’s latest military shooter. Spectator passes for the event went on sale earlier this month, and they sold out in less than an hour.
In addition to the Columbus arena, MLG is deep into the process of building the first e-sports-specific stadium in China. The company has spent nearly a year helping design that venue, and it plans to open it in 2017.
While MLG is responsible for the first U.S. e-sports venue, Korea built the first one in the world in Seoul earlier this year.