Interview with the CPL
Tuesday, October 28th, 2003, 4:23 PM
With the recent addition of Halo PC to the CPL 2003 Winter Championship, I set out on a mission to find more information about the event and the overall organization. It seems like just yesterday when playing games for a living was a far fetched fantasy. Now, due to the efforts of people like Angel Munoz, "professional gamer" is a job title that anyone with l33t skillz can obtain. Angel was kind enough to sit down and answer a few questions for me about Halo PC, the CPL and the future of professional gaming.
Before we get started, can you tell us a little bit about yourself and what it is you do for the CPL?
Angel Munoz : I am the founder and president of the Cyberathlete Professional League (www.thecpl.com). I became involved in computer gaming in 1995, when I left a career in investment banking to pursue opportunities in the interactive entertainment industry. I am also the founder of the Adrenaline Vault, a gaming website that was recently described by a London newspaper as "one of the most consistently popular gaming destinations on the Web.
For those of us who are new to the whole "professional gamer" thing, can you tell us a bit about the CPL? What is it?
The Cyberathlete Professional League (or CPL), is the world's leading professional computer gamer's league. We hold a number of live events throughout the year in the US, Europe and soon Asia. Tournament prizes vary from a low of $20,000 to a high of $200,000. We also sanction a number of qualifiers in over 30 countries and have an online amateur league, known as CAL (Cyberathlete Amateur League) with over 200,000 registered members in the US alone.
How did the concept of the CPL come to be? It's easy to dream of taking videogames to the professional level but how did you guys pull this off?
The basic concept of the CPL started with my own realization that a growing number of gamers preferred to compete against each other instead of just the games AI. At the time of the CPL's formation, the competitions were largely informal and disorganized. The CPL's role was to create a new standard of competition for gamers, evolving gaming tournaments from mom and pop-run local events into international, mainstream extravaganzas.
We accomplished this by sheer determination and an unwillingness to give up, in spite of the enormous difficulties and the overall rejection we initially experienced. Most people thought the mere concept of professional gaming was foolish and many websites and industry observers predicted that we would not last a year. That was 1997.
Playing games for a living is probably a dream that many of us have had at one point in our lives but it never seemed possible - until now. Are there any requirements to participate in the CPL?
The CPL is an open league, no pre-requisites or pre-qualifiers are necessary to participate in our tournaments, although it is recommended that gamers practice intensely before stepping up to a CPL event. Gameplay at the CPL level is very high, and the best gamers from all over the world travel to our events for a chance at the big cash prizes and to compete against the best in the world.
How much total money and prizes would you say have been given away since the beginning of the CPL?
CPL has given away almost $1,500,000 in cash prizes and another $500,000 in merchandise prizes since we launched the league.
Currently you have some of the biggest names in the business backing you. What was it like when you first set out to get sponsors on board? Did you encounter a lot of slamming doors or was it easier than you thought? Why do you think companies like Bawls or Intel are interested in the CPL?
The slamming of doors was constant in the early days, but the concept initially resonated well with companies like Logitech and BAWLS - two of our earliest sponsors. As the CPL proved to be not only an innovative concept but a well run business, large companies like Intel, NVIDIA, CompUSA and others became interested in sponsoring the league.
Our partnership with Intel is especially significant as they are the leading sponsor of the league and a constant source of encouragement and support to the CPL staff. We are especially excited about the opportunity to assist Intel in the promotion of their new Pentium 4 Extreme Edition - 3.2GHz with whopping 2MB of on-die L3 cache.
Of course Intel and our other sponsors are interested in the branding opportunities we offer at CPL, but most of all they want to be part of this new sport and partnering with the pioneer and market leader is just a natural step for any corporation wanting to maximize their return on investment.
Do you have any advice to pass along to other aspiring tournament promoters who are seeking sponsorship?
The history of the CPL and to a certain extent our success is partially based on the time that we launched the league and the state of the industry back then. The landscape has changed dramatically, with hundreds of organizations and gamers seeking sponsorship dollars from companies. Unfortunately, as many quickly find out, companies have finite budgets and are not quite as motivated to take on new projects. Opportunities are still out there, but tournament promoters should first prove that they can run successful events while investing their own capital, and then seek major sponsorship.
Now lets get to the real reason we're here... Halo PC. Why was the decision made to add Halo PC to your tournament roster? What kind of response have you been getting?
Several reasons. Our own experience with the Xbox version was extremely positive. Our relationship over the years with Gearbox has been very positive, in fact Randy Pitchford is a member of the CPL's Advisory Board; and the former commissioner of the CPL is a Gearbox level designer.
Furthermore, Randy and I have been trying to find ways to build a game geared for professional gaming. When the Halo project came about, we both agreed this was the perfect opportunity to create a game-mode for our tournaments. The tournament version of Halo Assault is expected in the near future. (ed. – more on this juicy bit in the near future!)
The community reaction has been very positive, with the Halo tournament spots all being taken in less than two weeks, a record for a new game at CPL.
Are you still accepting entries? What are the requirements to participate?
Unfortunately not. All the confirmed tournament spots are taken and we have only two waiting list spots left and 13 teams in the process of registration, so unless a team of five people all registered at once the chances of getting a spot in the tournament are very slim.
Can you tell us a little more about the actual event?
The CPL Event is composed of the following: a large exhibition area, workshops, a spectator arena, a large BYOC (Bring Your Own Computer) area, a computer mod competition and the tournament area. The tournaments are held on identical state-of-the-art computers provided by Intel, using the NVIDIA GPU solutions.
Hmm so Counter Strike players are competing for $100,000 but the Halo players get a measly $30,000? Hehe, just joking, that's a ton of cash you guys are giving away! Where does this money come from?
The $30,000 Halo for PC Winter Championship is sponsored by NVIDIA. NVIDIA is a market leader in visual computing technology dedicated to creating products that enhance the interactive experience.
Do you foresee more Halo PC events in the future? More money? =)
Yes, we will be announcing soon our Halo for PC Summer Championship, sponsored again by NVIDIA.
Are you a Halo player yourself? What do you think about Halo PC?
My seven year old son and I, played the game five times in every difficulty level on the Xbox and loved it. In fact, Halo has replaced Doom 2 as my all-time favorite game.
What's next for the CPL?
A new venue for our Summer 2003 event that will accommodate about 4,000 computers in the BYOC and host a large Halo for PC tournament :) (ed. - You heard the man, better start practicing now!)
What do you think the future holds for professional gaming in general?
The future is literally here, with professional gaming gaining more and more spectators and followers each year, it is just a matter of time when this new sport explodes into the general population.
Thanks for your time Angel! I'm sure we'll be hearing more from the CPL as we get closer to the Winter Event!