MLG Summer Starcraft II Arena Starts Friday

Pro gaming league's new season kicks off with free standard-definition stream of main competition for first time ever.

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The start of the Major League Gaming 2012 Summer Season begins this Friday, headlined by a Starcraft II tournament with 32 qualified players from around the world. And for the first time, the Main Starcraft II Arena stream will be free to watch in standard definition, thanks to a sponsorship deal with Full Sail University.

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Vacation's over, time for summer school!.

This will be the first MLG event since the MLG Spring Championships event in Anaheim, which reportedly had nearly as many unique male 17-24 visitors as the BCS Championship.

"Those numbers were huge, not just for eSports but in terms of young male demographic consumption rates, it tracked really well against things like college football and bowl games", MLG CEO Sundance DiGiovanni told GameSpot in a new interview which will available shortly. "The brand saw that and we're able to package something up where the community wins because they get access, and the brand wins because hopefully the community recognizes that and appreciates it. It's a good thing for everybody."

Of the 32 players competing, there are the top eight finishers from the Spring Championships, and 24 players from the Online qualifiers, six from North America, and nine each from Europe and South Korea. NASL Season 3 Champion Ilyes "Stephano" Satouri is the man everyone will be watching this weekend as he attempts to take home two titles in a week. Looking to stop him will be NASL runner-up Yang "Alicia" Joon Sik, MLG Spring Arena 2 Champion Kim "Violet" Dong Hwan, IGN ProLeague Season 4 Champion Han "Alive" Lee Seok, and Kim "SaSe" Hammar, the highest-placing Western player in Anaheim.

Spring Champion Park "DongRaeGu" Soo Ho will not be in attendance due to having to play in the GSL 2012 Season 3 GSL Semifinals against Jang "MC" Min Chul (a match which he lost this morning, 3:0). Winter Champion Lee "MarineKing" Jung Hoon has also elected not to go, along with few other players with scheduling difficulties. Replacing them will be many players making their first appearance at an MLG event, including European Online winner Rickard "SortOf" Bergman from Sweden.

The format has changed for the Summer Arena, where the 32 players will be broken up into two different Double Elimination Brackets. Each bracket will progress until there is one player remaining, resulting in an American sports-standard best-of-7 final. Like previous Arena competitions, the highest seeded players based on the Championship event will get to choose their first-round opponents. First-round matchups will be revealed tonight at 9 PM EST on MLG's official site.

Calling the action this weekend will be Marcus "djWHEAT" Graham, Sean "Day9" Plott, Dan "Artosis" Stemkoski, Shaun "Apollo" Clark, and Ben "MrBitter" Nichol. The Main stream and Dr Pepper behind-the-scenes stream will be free to watch in standard definition. A second Starcraft II stream, as well as ad-free HD 1080p quality versions of all streams, will be available for $10. The action runs this Friday from 5 p.m. until 11 p.m., resuming at noon Saturday and Sunday, with the finals commencing around 8 p.m. Sunday (all times Eastern).

MLG also announced Summer Arena events for League of Legends and fighting games Mortal Kombat and Soul Calibur V, set for August 3-5 and August 10, respectively. This will be the second Arena event for the fighters, and the first for League of Legends. The top eight Mortal Kombat and Soul Calibur players from the Spring Championships will be coming, with Online qualifiers ongoing for League of Legends.

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