MLG Winter Arena 2012 - The Full Details

Written by Scraps
Feb 20 2012, 7:25 AM EST

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MLG Winter Arena 2012 - The Full Details

SPOILER ALERT: MLG Winter Arena Qualifier results are revealed in this article.

Call me old fashioned, but when I consider buying something, I compare the product to the price, determine where the greater value lies, and decide accordingly. Early last week, Major League Gaming announced the details for their newest StarCraft II event, the 2012 Winter Arena. While the event's price seemed to shock the community, there was also an absolutely unprecedented event summarized in the announcement as well. After reading all the details on MLG's website to learn more, I still had a few questions remaining.

Last Thursday, I reached out to MLG to unearth every last detail of the event so I could make an accurate determination of price versus product in regards to the 2012 Winter Arena event and help the eSports community do the same. MLG was kind enough to put me in direct contact with league manager Adam Apicella to answer all my questions. I (hopefully) have accumulated all the previously public information as well as the new information Adam has supplied me in this article.


First, here is the public information from MLG's website and press release:

http://www.majorleaguegaming.com/news/winter-arena-ppv-announcement

Winter Arena Broadcast Schedule

Friday, February 24
- 5:30pm ET: Dr Pepper Pregame Show
- 6:00pm—12:00am ET: Gameplay

Saturday, February 25
- 1:30pm ET: Dr Pepper Pregame Show
- 2:00pm—10:00pm ET: Gameplay

Sunday, February 26
- 1:30pm ET: Dr Pepper Pregame Show
- 2:00pm—8:00pm ET: Gameplay

Tournament Structure:

32 players, double elimination, loser chooses maps.

Prize Pool: Over $26,000

1st = $10,000
2nd = $6,000
3rd = $3,600
4th = $2,200
5th = $1,400
5th = $1,400
7th = $900
7th = $900

Players finishing 1st-16th in the Winter Arena are entitled to an all-expense paid trip, including flight and a four night hotel stay, to the Winter Championship in Columbus, Ohio on March 23-25th.

Map Pool

MLG Antiga Shipyard - Cross Spawns Only
MLG Dual Sight
MLG Daybreak
MLG Entombed Valley - All Spawns Allowed
MLG Metalopolis - No Close by Ground Spawns
MLG Shakuras Plateau - No Close by Ground Spawns
MLG Tal’darim Altar - All Spawns Allowed

2012 Map Updates - All Rich Mineral Fields have been replaced with Normal Mineral Fields. - On Entombed Valley, a Neutral Supply Depot has been added to the bottom of each Main Base Ramp.

Players:

-MLG Providence '11 Top 8

Leenock
Naniwa
DongRaeGu
Mvp
Huk
MC
Haypro
Idra

-European OQ Top 8

Violet
Ret
Thorzain
Pomi
Socke
Sjow
Grubby
Merz

-Korea/Taiwan OQ Top 8

Nestea
Parting
Losira
MarineKing
Oz
STC
Ganzi
San

-North American OQ Top 8

Drewbie
Ddoro
Sheth
SaSe
Axslav
DeMuslim*
Minigun
DDE

*DeMuslim has replaced Artist in the North American OQ. DeMuslim won a consolation playoff between Illusion, Killer and Ostojiy that was held last Thursday night when it was determined that Artist will be unable to attend due to VISA issues.

Casters:

Tasteless
Artosis
djWHEAT
JP McDaniel
Rob Simpson (Blizzard)
Tumba
Robin
Adebisi

Content Delivery

Four simultaneous HD gameplay streams will be streaming every game of every match LIVE and ad-free.

The first series of the day on each stream on Friday and Saturday will be free. (That means 8 total matches will be free in HD).

Dr Pepper is sponsoring a LIVE behind-the-scenes tournament, hangout and interview stream FREE all weekend long, and it will have zero pre-recorded footage.

Every VOD will be available 10 minutes after each series to PPV members.


Additional Details provided by MLG league manager Adam Apicella:

Please note these are my comments from our conversation and not exact quotes. Errors and omissions are my responsibility.

a) MLG likes to bring in popular casters as well as fresh faces for their events. They did reach out to Day[9] and Husky but MLG probably did not give them enough of a lead time to coordinate their schedules for the event. MLG plans to give better lead time to all casters in the future.

b) The tournament bracket will be seeded in order of Top8 from Providence, followed by the first places from each region, then second places and so on for each region.

c) One of the major complaints they received last year was that fans were unable to see their favorite players if their match wasn't being streamed. To correct this, every match will be broadcast. There will be times where all four streams will have live matches playing simultaneously. This makes the instant VOD system appealing as well.

d) All five streams will be in HD. The main stream will have no downtime, no commercials, no 'Back in 5 Minutes' cards at all and will be upgrading to 1080p HD.

e) There is no pre-recorded footage on any of the streams, even the free 'Dr Pepper' stream. This stream will show players warming up in StarCraft II and possibly some Brood War. It sounds like it will be closer to a HomeStory Cup type of feel with roaming cameras, pros hanging out and goofing off. This stream is all live and free.

f) All VODs will be released 10 minutes after the series to PPV subscribers. In addition, all VODs and all Winter Arena Replays will be available one week after the event to everyone, including non-PPV subscribers. If you are someone who values the live tournament experience (I do), then the PPV pass might be appealing to you, but otherwise you can simply wait a week and watch the VODs.

g) MLG wants to make the players who have earned their spot in the Winter Arena feel as comfortable as possible. MLG is providing for all players to be flown in, picked up at the airport, and each their own hotel room. They will have catered meals all weekend including a kickoff lunch with Sundance on Friday.

h) MLG is joining One Nation of Gamers and Legends bar (official barcraft partner for the weekend) to stream the event all weekend long on 40+ TVs. Additionally, players will be stopping by throughout the weekend and for an after party on Sunday night to interact with fans.

i) Legends is the official New York spectator location for this Winter Arena with nearly 100 other BarCraft events taking place around the world. MLG will be conducting interviews with fans at Legends during the course of the event. MLG is supporting the players to interact with fans as much as possible and regrets that there simply isn't enough room for fans at the tournament location for this event. To find a BarCraft in your area visit: http://www.teamliquid.net/barcraft/.

j) The end goal of this effort is to have a static MLG location in the USA where players could be flown in, a studio space for more live content, a tournament stage capable of supporting a live audience all year round, and retail space.

k) In order to hold the Winter Arena, they renovated their current offices to make room for the tournament. In the future, they want to have a more established venue.

l) The set (backdrop) for the players at the Winter Arena will be the New York City skyline from the 32nd floor of their offices in the middle of Manhattan. It will have the night lights of the city including the Empire State Building.

m) Players will be sitting comfortably at computers across from each other in the same room during the matches. There is no audience or audio queues so there is no need for soundproof booths. This configuration reminds me of HomeStory Cup and contributes to an overall more personal experience.

n) They will be offering the players the opportunity to see some local sightseeing sites if they would like. The player schedule is fairly light and comfortable.

o) In addition to the live gameplay on 4 streams and the Dr Pepper stream, they have other live footage ideas and production elements that are unannounced, have never been done before and intended to be a surprise for viewers.

p) If this event is successful and they can continue to build upon it, putting StarCraft II on television Pay-Per-View is something they are considering.

q) MLG will judge the event as a success based on the excellence of the event. It is not just a sales thing where they want to reach X number of sales to be considered a success. Their goal is the prove they can do it, to prove they can create something of value and it is received well be the community.

r) For their Winter season, there will be only one Winter Arena. The goal is to have two per season starting this Spring 2012.

s) MLG is intending to provide a much more polished and streamlined viewing experience in the Winter Arena than anything they've ever done before, partially as a result of having a smaller venue and fewer logistics to manage. Basically, instead of thousands of fans, players, vendors and security staff to manage, they simply have production teams, players and casters.

t) In the future, the Online Qualifiers will remain free to watch, but they are going to significantly improve their production quality. Due to the high volume of games, they almost weren't going to stream them at all. Ultimately, they decided it was better to show them with very basic production elements as opposed to not showing them at all.

u) They will be cloaking the Online Qualifier results to prevent spoilers in the future.

v) They are using Twitch.tv for streaming the Winter Arena because they have been great partners and Twitch has a lot of useful features and resources that help them accomplish their goals.


Final Thoughts

As eSports has continued to evolve over the past few years, I've sometimes found myself willing to part with a few dollars to an eSports organization if I believed the organization met two important criteria. First, I had to believe they would produce a quality product that I was interested in. Second, I had to believe they were sincere in their attempt to be a part of the growing eSports community and they weren't simply trying to make a quick buck and get out. To determine what MLG is capable of, let's take a quick look at what they have done for StarCraft II.

In 2010, MLG altered their schedule in the middle of their season to fit StarCraft II, which had just come out in July into their eight-year Pro Gaming Circuit in August, which previously had never included an RTS title before. It was included in the last 3 Pro Circuits for 2010 and added to the full season's roster for the next year.

In 2011, MLG Dallas introduced technical difficulties that drew the ire of the community. MLG promised to address the issues and backed up their claims with the groundbreaking production at MLG Columbus. This was the MLG event where StarCraft II was on the main stage for the first time, the first time MLG soundproof booths were used and the unforgettable scene of SlayerS_MMA barely able to speak in the face of thousands of fans chanting his name. MLG Pro Circuits continued to grow in attendance through 2011, breaking their own viewership records at every event. MLG created an exchange program with the GSL to help ensure top Koreans would be regularly involved in the Pro Circuits. They reduced the Pro Circuit stops from 6 to 4 but raised the prize pool for each 2012 season event from $15,000 to $75,000 while adding the $26,000 Winter Arena, which is essentially an even more profitable tournament itself than each of the MLG Pro Circuit events from 2011 (except MLG Nationals in Providence). Their stated goal is to hold 6 more of them this year alone.

If you've listened to some earlier State of the Game podcasts and djWHEAT shows, you might recall some of the horror stories that have been told about some infamous eSports events and organizers over the past decade. These are stories about shady dirtbags who set up huge, hyped-up tournaments only to collect the money and disappear. Unfinished tournament circuits, unpaid players and employees, lies to sponsors and financial backers - it has all happened before in the eSports world.

While researching this article it became clear that MLG has weathered the eSports storm many times in the past. They've been surrounded by organizations determined to take the money and run, shunned by sponsors who slammed their doors on eSports forever for what other organizations have done and probably even more terrible things we'll never even hear about. Meanwhile, MLG kept doing it's own thing, trying to survive and build their brand each and every year. Sundance was also one of the original founders of MLG. From what I can tell, there isn't an organization more committed to the success of eSports than MLG.

I hope I've provided enough information to help you make an informed decision about whether MLG's Winter Arena offering is a good value proposition for you or not. The good news for someone who doesn't find it worth their money is that regardless of the results of the Winter Arena, MLG intends to keep free streams available for their Pro Circuit Championship events, which are now bigger and more valuable than ever.

Written by: Garrett "wpScraps" Schaper


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