Q&A: MLG's Matthew Bromberg

Major League Gaming's president talks about dishing out $1.25 million in contracts, Ohio churning out the best Halo 2 players, and pro gaming as the next NASCAR. Say what?

Parents who chastised their kids for playing too many video games and saying it'll never amount to anything got a wake-up call today. Major League Gaming, which claims to be the first pro-gaming league of its kind, announced the largest pro-gaming contracts in the sport's young history--$1.25 million for five young cyberathletes.

Five gamers will make $250,000 over three years for their commitment to the league, which tours across the country each year with open competitions in several games, including Halo 2 and Super Smash Bros. Melee.

MLG today also announced that energy-drink maker Red Bull has signed on as a supporter, joining Boost Mobile, Scion, and GameStop in MLG's stable of partners looking to crack the prized 18- to 34-year-old demographic.

GameSpot News spoke with Major League Gaming's president and COO, Matthew Bromberg, who knows a thing or two about the gaming industry as former vice president and general manager of AOL Games. We picked his brain about the future of pro gaming, how it can eventually become as big as other professional sports, and the next "Terrell Owens of gaming."

GameSpot News: Interesting that you are now offering significant money to attract competitors, when in the past you had contracts with gamers but no fees. What do you get from the additional cost to retain talent, and how will you leverage the high-priced talent?

Matthew Bromberg: Any top, competitive sports league must have the best players signed exclusively, or else what you've got is just some tournament. We have over 100 pros in our players association, and we directly manage 35 of them. As major brand sponsors, television, and mass-market Web audiences continue to migrate to MLG, we've gained the flexibility to evolve these arrangements, making them more lucrative for players. Our goal is for all of the top players in the league to make a great living competing with Major League Gaming.

GS: How did you come up with the figures for these new contracts?

MB: Why, not big enough for you? (laughs)

GS: What were the reactions of the gamers?

MB: Final Boss and Tsquared were ecstatic, of course. But even more importantly, all of the pros we talked to were excited. They know that these first two deals are just the beginning. We work hard every day to grow this league so that all of the pros can share in the bounty. The top 16 points leaders across our pro circuit already earn travel stipends to get them to each competition. Now we are signing some bigger deals with some of our stars. This is all about the players.

GS: Why these gamers in particular?

MB: Team Final Boss has been a force in the League from the beginning. They've won the championship for the last two years and are the favorites for this year, as well. T-2, in addition to being a great player, is also a budding media star. He's been the focus of a documentary on MTV True Life, been in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, CNN, etc. As we air our TV show on USA Networks this winter, and we continue to release video from the 2006 competitions on our Web site and on Boost Mobile phones, the mass-market audience will come to know even more of these guys, and that will lead to more of these contracts.

GS: Are there any additional cash incentives for your signed players?

MB: We have $800,000 in total cash and prizes for the winners of each stop on the 2006 Pro Circuit.

GS: Will the competitions still be open to all, and how much can a nonsigned gamer (an amateur) make on your tour?

MB: The first day of our competitions always has an open bracket and always will. Along with a series of online qualifying tournaments, that's a key part of how we find new stars. It isn't easy to make it out from the open bracket, though. We'll take 800 entrants down to 16 winners, and then most of those folks will lose their very first match in the main draw. But every now and then, a new star emerges. Strongside, one of the top players in the League, came to our attention that way.

GS: How has attendance at events tracked over the short beginning of the '06 season? How about relative to earlier seasons?

MB: Our very first competition of 2006 in the Meadowlands was the largest console-gaming competition ever: We had 144 four-man teams competing, and that was just the team entries. There were more than 1,000 total competitors and 5,000 total attendees, including fans and family. Dallas was the same. Anaheim is happening this week, and we'll max that competition out as well. Three years ago when this started, a regular event might have 50 people. It has become a phenomena.

GS: Are there any "hotbeds" of pro gaming? Are there certain regions in the country where the response is greater?

MB: Different games are strong in different areas of the country. Fighting games are big on the West Coast. FPSs are bigger on the East. There are an awful lot of the best Halo players in the world who hail from Ohio. Don't ask me why.

GS: How do you see e-sports growing over the next couple of years?

MB: We don't really like the terminology. We want to grow the next major competitive sports league in America. Everyone always wants to put and "E" or an "I" before anything that has to do with the Internet. That has never made any sense to me.

GS: Currently, you have Boost and Red Bull signed up as sponsors. Are you aiming to break new business or is your sponsorship profile where you want it?

MB: The supporters of the 2006 Boost Mobile Major League Gaming Pro Circuit are Boost (obviously), Scion, Red Bull, GameStop, and Turtlebeach. They aren't just any brands; they are exactly the right brands with whom to build a youth-oriented League. We are out there now talking about 2007, which should be even bigger, and we hope that many more of the right folks will be on board with us as we grow.

GS: Is there any "Gamer stereotype" that pro gaming has to overcome? Will getting these pros on TV help out?

MB: No one takes that seriously anymore, particularly as it relates to console gaming. Anyone who knows someone 14 to 34 will tell you that the gamer community is a cross-section of America--their own friends, sons, daughters...or themselves! When more than 100,000,000 people do something, sterotypes kind of fall away.

GS: What genres of games do you think foster the best competition for viewing audiences, and what upcoming titles do you see adding to your events?

MB: Certainly, FPSs are historically the most easily suited to competition. But fighting games and sports games and racing games can be great, too. You have to look at the community the game supports. We seek out games that are sufficiently skill based, for sure, but that also have a competitive community that we can embrace, work with, and grow. We are definitely going to add some games to the Tour for 2007. We are evaluating that now.

GS: Is there any thought to mirroring the techniques of professional sports leagues to draw in audiences? For example, would a "Terrell Owens of the MLG" be good for the league? How about rivalries between players, teams, or cities?

MB: Every great league has its stars, and so do we. But we don't need to manufacture anything. Yes, you package it and market it, but these pros have been competing on our circuit for years. The rivalries, the personalities, the knuckleheads...it is all there already.

GS: As more and more gamers sign on and professional gaming grows, what is the future competitive model for MLG? Would a regional team-based model (like the MLB, NBA, NFL) work better, or would it be an individual basis, like the Pro Tennis Association or extreme-sports circuits?

MB: Our league shares attributes of all of those models, and there are no better teachers. Don't forget about NASCAR as a model, by the way. Our challenge will be to chart our own course and learn as we go.

GS: If pro gaming is going to make it into the mainstream, you're going to need superstars--someone crowds want to root for. Are there any prodigies out there that are of particular interest?

MB: That is what today's announcement is about. [Final Boss members] Walshy, the Ogre twins, Saiyen, and Tsquared are our first crop of stars, and as we roll out the media across the Web, mobile, TV, game console, etc., millions more will come to know them. But there are also a whole group of other competitors we will be introducing to the world. I mentioned Strongside, a real up-and-coming guy on the circuit. Karma is amazing. Ken and Isai haven't lost a Smash Brothers match in years, it sometimes seems. We are pretty broad and deep when it comes to talent.

GS: Thank you very much, Matthew.

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62 comments
Matias1_G
Matias1_G

wow, i wish they started showing gaming competitions on television, that would be something to watch! can you imagine seeing hundreds of other players compete? both novice and uber 1337? i think that televised tournaments would be amazing... especially once the wii comes out.

SolidSnake1810
SolidSnake1810

Seems like all MLG cares about is it's star players, they dont realize that the people that pay and get owned are the ones that keep them in buisness,lol.

fablefan2
fablefan2

OHIO RULEZZZZZ!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

alphazealot
alphazealot

"Cool, I'd like to get paid 200 grand just for playing Melee. Of course, I bet they're forced to play SSBM 8 hours a day or something for training. Now that, I wouldn't want to do." Smash Pro players do not play for prolonged periods of time each day. It simply doesn't work that way. To get good at Smash you have to play other players who are also good, and that requires alot of personal networking, which mostly occurs at Smashboards and in real life. PC Chris, one of the top 3 players in the US, doesn't even own a gamecube. Misconceptions are abound about this lifestyle. Are some of you talking about sports or athletics? It would seem that you are assuming the two go hand in hand. What about sport fishing? Or hunting? or Ping Pong? or Golf? or Pool? or Nascar? or Indy? or Curling? I don't think anyone would call them athletes (and if you do I apologize, especially in the case of Golf). The same arguements can be made about professional fisherman, they are doing something that most people only do for recreation or for fun, and that at first only existed for this purpose, or as a lifestyle (fishing for food). Not only that, but fishing is way more expensive to break into then video games. All you need is a system and a controller, which, in MLG's case, costs about $120 for Smash and $250 for Halo 2.I suppose you can also equate in the cost of attending events, but even so anyone in school with a part time job can swing it (granted you will be a little strapped for cash with rising costs of plane tickets). The purpose for this is simple. Entertainment. If you don't play Halo or Smash competitvely then you can't appreciate it, YET. You are simply not close enough to understand the intimate nature of the communities and just how much skill and passion goes into these games. I don't think it is at all a sin for people to be paid to do what they love. I actually think disuading them from this idea is more of a sin then persuading it. Or do hopes and dreams mean nothing? Don't bring in broad theories speaking about the degradation of sociaty either. With the advent of new technologies new things are bound to pop up, it has nothing to do with the degradation of sociaty. Maybe they were thinking that when Basketball entered popular culture in the 70's.

Bahamut50
Bahamut50

for people who believe being paid to play is stupid, lets get one thing straight, we get paid to play basketball, hockey, soccer, football and many other sports, so you idiots should just keep your mouth shut, especially the sports fans

Sociologist
Sociologist

Benasty, I don't care where Bromberg graduated from as that is besides the point. Graduating from Harvard or Ivy League schools does NOT make someone brilliant or savvy by any means. One would only have to look at our current president to see this. Also, your comparison between computer/console gaming and poker is seriously lacking, as poker is an activity that has always involved GAMBLING and some sort of financial reinforcement for a player's performance. Not a good way to begin your argument. Try justifying WHY this is a good idea and what purpose it truly serves instead of making ill-suited analogies.

Kirko8585
Kirko8585

To MLG: Thanks but no thanks, some of us actually have a life.

ephilx
ephilx

Sounds attractive...

Fi123storm
Fi123storm

Hah. You guys bad-mouthing this are just idiots. Guess what? In Korea, guys like Slayer Boxer are more known and looked up to than Michael Jordan and Wayne Gretzky. Hell, Boxer has his own autobiography. StarCraft tournaments get tens of thousands of people at the stadium. Multiple TV channels broadcast them. The rest of the world is behind at the moment. Nothing is stopping MLG from becoming huge in the future. Maybe not the near future, but the future. Also, those of you thinking "Wow! Sign me up!" are delusional. Guys like Ken and Isai would destroy you in less than a minute without losing a single stock. They'd know what you're about to do before you even did it. That's how predictable you likely are - even if you don't know it.

y2chuck
y2chuck

This is awesome! I'd love to see the day where a "virtual formula 1" season is broadcast on TV but being played by the best race-sim players in the world. Quarter of a million bucks seems excessive, but the marketing and exposure of the games/brands/sponsors will easily pay for it.

Lupus64
Lupus64

Crazy... I play for gaming merchandise at local tourneys, but playing for hundred thousand dollar contracts? That's seriously wack. Not that I'd object to getting one of those contracts, mind you, but personally I think that's getting a bit over the top. I mean, paintballing as a professional sport works ok, but Gaming? Oh well, as long as they're having fun and raising the profile of Gaming, who am I to object?

grimzeus
grimzeus

Everyone's known about the pro-leagues for a while. It's already here. I work in PR and my company is constantly getting calls from gaming teams to sponser them. They I go look on XBOX live and find out the idiots have like a level 5 rating in Halo 2. If you're going to be a pro-gamer, plan on the Yngwie Malmsteen approach. Plan on 15 hours of day of practice 7 days a week minimum. Of course, there are some dangers here - you could suffer a stroke or mental problems as a result and of course you'd throw away your chances of doing anything else with your life - but that's who's winning these torneys - guys who spend every waking moment gaming.

Sabien822
Sabien822

you just know there's gonna be channels on TV of people playing FPS games eventually. It would be kinda sad, but I'd watch it

glitchgeeman
glitchgeeman

Cool, I'd like to get paid 200 grand just for playing Melee. Of course, I bet they're forced to play SSBM 8 hours a day or something for training. Now that, I wouldn't want to do.

Legendkillerh2
Legendkillerh2

he's right....best halo players in ohio....i would know...since i live in ohio....and i pwn noobs in halo

00Rambol00
00Rambol00

Getting paid for playing video games? maaan they should employ me :)

goblin_king0072
goblin_king0072

[quote]this is rediculous, no one should be paid to play games, even if its so called major league gaming. What is the world coming to. This needs to bes stopped. If you want to play games fine, theres no way you should be paid for it. [/quote] I hate you...

spidey008
spidey008

I think the MLG is cool. I would rather watch someone play games than watch a bunch of rednecks race around a track for 8 hours.

-AirHendrix-
-AirHendrix-

I doubt it. Thing is that alot of these tourneys are just Console gaming= not really PC ones :(.

homiebo
homiebo

i deserve to be in for being the tallest and thats final

dergy
dergy

WOOT!!! i would love to do it. but a certain female companion stops me. AH! WOMEN!!!

benasty712
benasty712

To answer this question, also, how the hell can a league sign players? wouldnt that make them biased towards the signed players over others? No, it doesnt make the league biased. I assure you that in every NBA players contract there is a clause that says you cannot play in any basketball league except the NBA. Those players would be considered signed to the league.

benasty712
benasty712

For everyone that asks how to sign up you can visit their website and register there for an event that comes near closest to you. www.mlgpro.com

benasty712
benasty712

Sociologist, This Bromberg guy as you like to call him is a Harvard graduate. So calling him delusional probably isn't the best way to start your argument. You said "Pushing electronic entertainment into the realm of 'athletics' is outright foolishness and will not likely happen in the near future." While you may think that this is a fad and it will never become anything legitimate, keep this in mind. What is the difference between this people playing video games and professional poker players. All the poker players do is look at their cards and play with some chips? Is poker a passing fad as well?

vaejas
vaejas

Thumbs insured for $1 Million. Each.

chiggeronstix
chiggeronstix

i play games for fun. Sure, games can be competitive but when money gets involved, doesn't it turn into a job and not fun?

Zefult
Zefult

Tournaments never get to my area either hektek2003. I live in the United States and their competitions don't even come to my state!!!!.

Zefult
Zefult

Well if this (FAD) pays well , I would like to join. Actually I thought about joining about a year or two ago, but as a hard working American who doesn't have the time to go to each of their competitions in other states just to earn points and try to catch up to the spoiled brats who have the time and money to go to each one, its ridiculous. They should just have really good prizes that would intise all of us long time players to go , to where if we were good enough we could make enough money to support our families off of it -- instead of only the top 16 getting "travel stipends to get them to each competition". Have a national try out and pay the top winners to go to your stupid competitions-- don't just have them and expect us to bank our own way on the useless hope that one day we will be recognized!!!

hektek2003
hektek2003

kinda weird how ppl are gettin paid to play. I think they shood just have competitions with high cash prizes. And i live in a small town in canada. Tournaments never get to my area. Canada needs to up its tournament output, and bring them to more than just the main cities.

Sociologist
Sociologist

Oh Gouki23, your loyalty to them is admirable. It's as if I insulted something that is near and dear to you. You fail to see that labeling something a sport that is not is not necessarily something as benign as you seem to believe it to be. See the posts in the other article, and look at what you are saying and supporting. Perhaps we should make ignorance and a lack of seeing the bigger picture a sport as well, as you fail to realize the reprecussions of attempting to convert electronic entertainment to 'athletics.' Yes, cheers to me. Not everything is about the bottom line, you twit. Fame and money are both fleeting (as they say), and you may realize that someday when you grow up. ;-)

Gouki23
Gouki23

If you didnt know, 3 of the 5 attend college WHILE still attending these event.. And if they didnt, spending 2 or 3 years to make more money than you will make in a decade just "for playing video games" is quite worth it. They could start college when this so-called fad (as you said) will have expired. In the meantime, they'll be known around the world and be watched on television while you try to make yourself feel better by trying insult their decisions. If it doesnt expire, these kids will be millionaires and will be considered the first stars of competitive gaming. Cheers to YOU.

Sociologist
Sociologist

Wow, Bromberg is delusional to believe that this so-called sport will take off within the next few years. Pushing electronic entertainment into the realm of 'athletics' is outright foolishness and will not likely happen in the near future. Also, he kind of reminds me of Gabe Newell, which is never a good thing... Oh, and these kids will never be stars, as the fat man says they will. In a few years, this fad will have expired, and they will have traded getting an education for playing video games. Cheers.

Afamilyguy1
Afamilyguy1

that sounds awsome.how do i sigh up.

mhder
mhder

Imallvol7 this is rediculous, no one should be paid to play games, even if its so called major league gaming. What is the world coming to. This needs to bes stopped. If you want to play games fine, theres no way you should be paid for it. Any different than sports?

LordelX
LordelX

Interesting. I wonder if this will become world wide.

ExcAREentric
ExcAREentric

[This message was deleted at the request of a moderator or administrator]

Terran499
Terran499

Its not a waste. I mean its what they're good at. The are people who sit and drive 500 miles in cirlce and go noowhere.(Nascar) The are people who throw a leathe/rubber ball around for 60 min and try to run each other in the ground. (Football) Let them do, I would do it. I would just like to which games they do. I'd love to paid to travel around and play Killzone.

vyrizzle
vyrizzle

I dont really know where i stand on this. I mean, personally for me at least, i dont think i could ever really sit down and watch a videogame tournament. I mean i can barely watch replays i download. AS for these kids becoming "stars", that is a complete joke. No one outside the gaming industry will know them, and maybe people inside wont even know them. I really think the MLG is taking this a lil far right now. But congrats to them, keep up the good work, but dont let this go to your heads!

DarknessKilla
DarknessKilla

Sad... they cotribute ABSOLUTELY NOTHING!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! to society.... so many $$ for playing games.... rocks if ur the gamer getting paid that mich thought....

warhawk256
warhawk256

Well the guy in the interview certainly sounded like he knew what he was talking about. I guess I'm too afraid to abandon other aspects of my life in order to master a game enough to win prize money from competitions.

fraudbot
fraudbot

It's called evolution drack48........over 10yrs ago there were nintendo championships being held on games like tetris, chip &dale rescure rangers, and super mario brother......games these days are much better suited for competition and it is the next step......the highscore board has been with us since the beginning

drack48
drack48

holy crap, I think this is the dumbest thing I've ever herd. Games are meant for playing them and enjoying them not watching people compete.. What next? TV and Movie watching professionals! " I watch 25 DVDs a day and get paid $500,000 a year. I'm that good. " Maybe I'm just jealous, cause I work a crap ass job for way less!

sasuke_
sasuke_

waste of money cs, wc3 etc are way bigger also, how the hell can a league sign players? wouldnt that make them biased towards the signed players over others?