To capitalize on a rapidly growing competitive league right in the heart of its demographic, X Games, together with Major League Gaming, announced Monday that there will be a "Call of Duty" tournament as part of X Games Austin in June.
The "MLG Call of Duty: Ghosts" tournament will feature the top five "Call of Duty" teams based on MLG Pro Points plus the top three teams from the "Call of Duty" championship held in Winter Park, Fla., last month. The eight teams will compete in a double-elimination group format, with four teams advancing to a single-elimination bracket. X Games medals will be awarded to the winning teams.
"It's going to be [MLG] bringing our high-level production into a really full weekend," MLG CEO Sundance DiGiovanni said. "We're looking to build something here that hopefully becomes a tradition at both the summer and the winter X Games over time."
MLG is one of several professional video game leagues worldwide and the largest in North America, hosting tournaments in such games as "League of Legends," "Call of Duty" and "Starcraft" and sports games like "NBA 2K14." Teams of gamers make up MLG rosters and will compete in online preliminary tournaments broadcast on MLG.tv. Then major tournaments are held in venues like the Anaheim Convention Center in Southern California, where thousands have watched tournaments in-person.
"We are for the first time in a position where we have the league structure, the broadcast piece, the direct access to media and brands who are interested in advertising and marketing to this audience, and it's built in such a way where there's this tremendous scale in front of us," DiGiovanni said.
No stranger to ESPN -- he was the video gaming expert on "Cold Pizza" -- DiGiovanni said the partnership with X Games was an extension of a longtime relationship he has had with the network.
The partnership with X Games was about a year in the making, according to Tim Reed, senior director of content strategy for the X Games. X Games Austin expands this year into a three-day festival with top-tier musical acts and events surrounding the competition.
"As X Games looks to grow and launch into the festival event we're producing, this is great added content to the overall plan," Reed said. "I'm definitely excited to see how it translates [to X Games]."
Joe "Merk" Deluca, a member of Team EnVyUs, will be at X Games Austin because his team finished second in last month's COD championship. He said the partnership between MLG and X Games makes a lot of sense. Deluca played in front of as many as 20,000 people over the course of a weekend at the MLG Championships in Anaheim last year, but he says the ability to compete for an X Games medal is what sets this MLG competition apart from the rest.
"I want to win an X Games medal," Deluca said. "That would be a dream in itself."
Bringing gaming to the X Games was a good match because people interested in professional gaming are likely to be fans of the X Games and other action sports, Reed said. Couple that with the surging popularity of the new genre of e-sports and X Games has what it hopes will be a popular attraction inside the festival grounds at the Circuit of the Americas.