Major League Gaming Interview
Posted by Sketch at 7/13/2004 6:02 PM PDT

Over the past few months, we've had a chance to interview a number of key players in the rapidly expanding world of professional gaming. While most organizations focus on the PC and other games, there are some, like the MLG, that wholeheartedly embrace our beloved Halo. Who is the MLG? What are they all about? And why should Halo players care? I recently got a chance to chat with three people responsible for Major League Gaming to pick their brains regarding the past, present and future of competitive gaming.



Hey guys, thanks for taking the time to chat with us! Before we get started, can you each give us a quick introduction and tell us what your role is at MLG?

Mike Sepso, CEO and Co-Founder of MLG

Sundance DiGiovanni, EVP and Co-Founder of MLG

Dolbex, Lord of the Flies and MLG webmaster of


For those of us who are new to the realm of professional gaming, what can you tell us about MLG? How and when did this organization get started?

MS : MLG launched last June, so we're just over a year old.

MLG is a company that grew out of a lot of grass roots level gaming communities coming together. Basically we decided to apply our business and media backgrounds to create a world class organization that all of the competitive gaming communities that were out there could benefit from.

SD : In other words, two years ago we decided that whatever we did next had to allow for at least an hour of office Halo a day


What is the vision behind MLG? What makes it different from other organizations such as the CPL or AGP?

MS : MLG is a console only gaming league, which makes it different from CPL. CPL is really the grandfather and standard-bearer for PC pro gaming and it's a company we looked at a lot in forming MLG.

SD: To us AGP is just like 50k or Halo Nationals was prior to their joining forces with us. A single game, individual event serires rather than a true league that has a complete season where every event matters to your standing. Also, the fact that we run multiple games at all of our events and get the best players in the world for each and every title we run makes us totally uniqe right now and it's all the basis for something much bigger than I think peopel comprehend right now.


MS : MLG was created to provide a platform for all competitive console gaming and to apply a real world business plan to the creation of a world-class league. We spent a lot of time studying NASCAR and other sports leagues to see how they grew from small organizations of enthusiasts into global sanctioning bodies and media powerhouses. We are trying to apply that same model to gaming with MLG. That means we have a standard rankings system, so that competitions are not “one-offs” where you might win a few bucks, but it doesn't get you any recognition as a top gamer.

We also created a group to manage the careers of pro gamers in order to do everything we could to make it a real profession for the elite competitors out there. This means we actively seek out promotional opportunities, like personal appearances and TV interviews and we find and negotiate endorsement deals for individual players. It doesn't happen over night, but we are having a lot of success in attracting big companies from outside of the gaming world into pro gaming.

SD : On top of all that there's the development of media properties to support the pro gaming movement. MLG is developing a TV show in addition to our weekly segment on ESPN2. SpikeTV is currently filming a documentary on us and a few of our pro gamers that will air prior to their VG Awards show this fall. We are also developing a syndicated radio show and are we have started to invest a lot in building out our online presence with exclusive content and video (thank you Dolbex).


Later this month, the MLG is rolling through Atlanta with the Halo50k3 event. Can you give us a quick rundown of the highlights of this latest Halo competition?

SD : I think Dolbex is the man to answer that one.

Dolbex: Sure. The 50k series I think has always done a good job of putting on a show. Plenty of televisions, great staff, and of course, tons of Halo. What we haven't had in the past is the resources that MLG brings to the court. 50 Sony Wega TVs, brand new Xboxes, projectors and screens galore, and of course tons of promotion that 50k3 just would not have seen without MLG. So, I think what people should expect is the quality run tournament from the past with an injection of the most illegal, body hair-nuking, steroid you can find.


The "Halo50k" series of tournaments has been around for a while and is one of, if not THE pioneer and biggest name in major gaming amongst the Halo community. How have these tournaments evolved and what can you tell us about the new partnership/relationship with MLG?

Dolbex: Well, I think 50k was coming out about the same time as a lot of organizations around the Halo world. Cobalt Nova's projects, Killtacular Klassic, I-games, AGP, and in the beginning I think we knew we had to do something that was different from the rest of the pack. I mean, attendance was around 30 teams on average for most of these events, meanwhile Bungie is talking about how many copies sold in the first 6 months and we were thinking, “Where the hell is everyone?!” So, what I think 50k did well, that many didn't do is promote like mad. Anakin got on Xbconnect and talked up 50k like crazy. Aim conversations with anyone that had “Halo” in their profile, and of course a massive campaign by Bbow on 7 th column letting the world know what we were trying to do. It was pretty insane.

You have to remember that we had a lot riding on these tourneys financially. We would pay for a $3,000 venue space and sit and hope to god that the teams would come. A sort of “If you build it they will come” type of thing. Now, everything is changed. With MLG that's something that we don't have to worry about. We can run a tourney without worrying if we are going to have to file bankruptcy before we graduate from college. It makes the whole experience a lot more fun. Players have also gotten more responsible. They register early now instead of always waiting till the last week. I think we had close to 30 teams register for 50k3 in the first 48 hours that we opened registration on Ridiculous.


Obviously the MLG focuses on a wide variety of games, but we're biased so we'll keep the discussion to the only game that really matters... =) What is it about Halo that makes it a good fit for competitive gaming?

Dolbex: Wow.. I'll let Sunny handle this one…

SD : The game is so well designed that with the proper rules and gametypes, Halo becomes a true test of skill. There are tons of console shooters out there and I've played most, if not all of them, and without a doubt none come close to what Halo has to offer for competitive play – that is of course until Halo 2 comes out…

MS : Halo rules.


In your opinion, why do you think the game continues to have such a strong multiplayer following so many years after it's initial release?

SD: We play it everyday and it never gets old. Hundreds of thousands of people feel the same way. Obviously you guys (Bungie) did something right.

Dolbex: This game has a learning curve like no other. Every time you think you have reached your maximum potential with Halo you learn a new trick, a new exploit, a new strategy, whatever. The game is just so huge, even with only 13 levels of multiplayer, that when you finally start to perfect one area, another starts to slip. I think it is a constant battle to stay honed into your skills, and that's what keeps the game, and competition dynamic and fun. No game has a feeling like Halo. It's that feel , pace, or balance, that makes Halo such a great competitive game.


What's the craziest thing you've ever experienced or witnessed at a Halo tournament?

MS : 500 gamers, 50-something TVs and consoles and little or no ventilation was crazy the first time I experienced it.

Dolbex: Man, Halo players are crazy. Probably the craziest thing I have witnessed are the goings-on around the tourney. I remember walking through a completely booked Holiday Inn with Cat 5 running through the hallways on every floor. When the manager came around she made everyone pull the cable out of the hallway due to the “Fire Marshals” orders. So what did everyone do? They swung 50 foot cables outside the hotel windows down multiple floors, across balconies, it was pretty nuts. You could stand outside and look up and see multiple cables decorating the building.

SD: “Clap,” aka, our Head of League Operations, let me play on his team in the consolation bracket at Midwest Mayhem and we crushed. We actually had people gathering around to watch us in action.


How does someone go about getting signed up to play in a Halo50k event? Are there any special requirements?

MS : All MLG events are open to the public. For Halo, you have to register online through our website: . And give props to Dolbex for the sweet new look and lots of fresh content.


Do you have any advice for someone who aspires to some day be a champion Halo player? What's the secret of success?

MS : It's hard work, a lot of practice and a willingness to sacrifice a lot to make it happen.

SD: The biggest thing though is just to continue to seek out the best competitors out there and play against them as much as you can. You can only get better by playing against the best. If you think you're already the best just look me up at an MLG event and I'll be glad to hook you up with a match against one of our Pros. (That means you Richard Jefferson).

Dolbex : Wheaties. Lots and lots of Wheaties

Halo PC or Halo Xbox?

SD: Xbox. No contest.

MS : Xbox. PCs are for email. And MS Office of course.

Dolbex : Xbox

Mouse and keyboard, Controller-S or the "Duke"?

MS : S

Dolbex : For Halo = Controller-S. For Others = Got to have that mouse.

SD: Controller-S. I can't pistol with the Duke.

With announced features such as 16 player LAN matches with up to 16 individual boxes and multi-team matches, this has to open up some new opportunities for console tournaments. What aspects of Halo 2 have you most excited in regards to large scale events and competitions?

Dolbex : I know our “bracketologist” Anakin is foaming at the mouth with anticipation at what Halo 2 is bringing to the table. I mean, 8 man FFA's where the players can change their settings real quick without backing out?! Awesome! I think tons of other elements are brought to the table as well. We know that you guys have a ton up your sleeves in regards to Xbox Live, and we, more than your average Joe, can't wait to see what it is. However, we do know that integration will happen, and with that we know that there will be national rankings. That could really benefit us in a lot of ways and give us more time at our tourneys to try some new things instead of worrying about seeds. However, as Sundance says, and I think we all feel this way at MLG, we just have to wait like the rest of the gamers to see what we have to work with, but yes, we are absolutely stoked about all the Halo newness.

SD : I think the new maps are at the top of my list, followed closely by the new weapons (please keep the pistol). It'll take some time for us to figure out which maps work best for which gametypes. Translation: we'll be playing Halo 2 at work for a month nonstop once it comes out and calling it ‘research'.

What do you see in the future for MLG and professional gaming? How do you see the sport evolving? What will it take to really break into the mainstream and bring competitive gaming to the "next level"?

MS : MLG has already grown past our expectations of where we would be at the end of our first year. We are going to continue to unite the hardcore gaming communities out there and to expose who we are little by little to a more mainstream audience.

We believe that for pro-gaming to break into the mainstream, we need to continue with our plans to develop other media properties around the league. This includes television, radio and online in the near future. Our segment with Sundance on ESPN2 has shown us that the mainstream market is getting more familiar with gaming culture and has a strong interest in it.

The next step is for us to elevate the celebrity of the top pro gamers in our league so that a much wider audience is exposed to their stories. When you tell people outside of the competitive gaming world that a 20 year old guy from Texas can travel the country playing Halo competitively and that he has endorsement deals and signs autographs and gets fan mail, generally they are totally blown away and want to hear more. We are tapping into that now and we expect there to be the kind of evolution of celebrity that happened in pro skating to happen within pro gaming; but it will eventually be much bigger than that.

SD : yeah, what he said.


Any closing comments you'd like to share with our readers?

MS : I just want to thank all the people in the Halo community for helping us make MLG a reality and for all the support. And of course, thanks to Bungie for making such a kick ass game.

SD: I have to thank the people who make what we do possible – Clap, Anakin, Dolbex, Puckett, Sin and all of our volunteers are really the heart and soul of our operation. Without them none of this would be possible.


Thanks again for taking the time to talk with us and we'll be looking forward to a full blow-by-blow following the completion of Halo50k3 later this month!

MS : Sweet.

SD : Excellent (please keep the pistol)


And that's a wrap! To find out more about the MLG and their upcoming events, please visit their website at We'll continue to keep you posted on the latest Halo tournaments and happenings within the professional gaming scene.


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