After a hiatus, Major League Gaming will produce Halo events again
Esports Betting Report

Major League Gaming Reunites With Halo, Awakens Impassioned Community

Halo and MLG
Next year might be Halo’s most historic yet on the esports front.

The December announcement of the game title partnering once again with the old friend, Major League Gaming, has sparked a whole new era for esports. The two entities were once integral parts of each other’s success before parting ways several years ago. That ended one of the most successful stints in competitive gaming.

The new report outlining the renewed alliance for Halo’s 2018 season pledges another invigorating and prosperous year for the game.

To any long-time Halo fan, the news of MLG’s reintroduction into its pro scene is compelling. It provides closure to a wistful period in esports where both Halo and MLG flourished in seperate directions. With an impressive backstory between the two, it is expected that the union will significantly enhance the competitive Halo scene.

Humble beginnings

In the early 2000’s, before ‘esports’ was even a household word, tournaments for the original Xbox game — Halo: Combat Evolved — were being constructed and organized by a small group of individuals. Little did they know that they were on the verge of a life changing industry. Adam Apicella, now vice president of Major League Gaming, tweeted out the following after the recent announcement of MLG’s regained partnership:

“15 years ago without any experience and no money, I rented out a ballroom in Wheeling, WV, borrowed 20 TVs and Xboxes, made a website, and ran a tournament all to find more people to play Halo:CE with…”

Halo: CE tournaments started from the grassroots; with organic endeavors, modest venues and comparatively meek prizes, players waded into the game for the pure fun and bragging rights that would come along with a win. Somewhere in between the intoxicating games of Slayer on Battle Creek or Capture The Flag on Hang em’ High, a sense of opportunity dawned upon a handful of those attending.

Following Apicella’s initial tweet, Michael Sespo, MLG’s co-founder, replied: “So one summer almost 16 years ago, [Sundance DiGiovanni] and I were playing a lot of halo. For money. I’m pretty sure I was up about $4k. We needed to figure out what to do with our futures. Somehow making money playing games seemed like the future. Then we met [Adam Apicella]…”

A result of a fun and unintentionally complex multiplayer design, MLG was able to harness the energy of Bungie’s sci-fi first-person shooter. It launched Halo to the forefront of what we all know as ‘esports’ today.

MLG and Halo: A perfect match

At the time, Halo was a unique case. It was a spell-binding console shooter with a cult following gave the game a sexy feeling. Couple its popularity with an unmatched competitive feature, and Halo became the perfect weapon for MLG to take under its wing. MLG transformed it into an esport empire.

The fusion of Halo and MLG has generated such an overwhelming response. That’s because of what the two were able to accomplish together, as well as independently in the past. MLG’s impressive display of competitive Halo was later described as pioneering what video game broadcasts should look like. The Boost Mobile MLG Pro Circuit was one of its most innovative endeavors. A televised pre-produced Halo 2 tournament that aired on USA Network, with 13 episodes, was a first of its kind.

MLG encapsulated esport production in its Pro Circuit. Each episode built on top of a preexisting storyline. They created narratives and let viewers feel like they were on the stages themselves. Pre-produced packages gave producers the ability to highlight critical moments in games. It spotlighted strokes of genius from players, which might otherwise be unrecognized.

By the time Halo 3 rolled around, MLG was on top of its game in terms of production. Every event was packaged in a way in which video game enthusiasts had never seen before. Well-dressed, intellectual commentators introduced and gave premise for every matchup on stage, aiding to translate the fiery emotion to viewers and fans alike. Skilled commentary helped illustrate game action while pre- and post-game interviews touched on the tournament’s chronicles.

The sci-fi franchise and esport organization seemed to be a match made in heaven. However, the union was short-lived.

MLG abandons Halo

While Halo is still recognized as a staple in MLG and vice versa, the two parted ways in 2013. Beginning with Halo: Reach, the introduction of armor abilities such as sprint and jetpack tainted the game in fundamentals ways that hindered its competitive viability within MLG.

After MLG dropped Halo in 2013 due to its decreasing popularity, ESL hopped on as the leading tournament organizer for the game. ESL did a fair job. But it just couldn’t quite deliver or match the same caliber as the predecessor, MLG, presented within Halo. Despite great viewership, the 2017 Halo World Championship took a massive blow when one attendant tweeted out a few laughable photos of the venue.

Even with $1 million on the line, the largest of any Halo tournament, Optic Gaming’s commanding victory appeared quite underwhelming when taking into account the placid environment in which the teams competed in. There was also seemingly a low count of attendees, which appeared to be only about a hundred people. ESL’s poor delivery was not something that the celebrated 17-year-old franchise deserved. As a result, fans were crying out for MLG to come back even more frequently than before.

Why is MLG in Halo’s best interest?

MLG’s long-standing relationship with Halo isn’t the only element that makes them a perfect pair. The esport organization is also renowned as being the incomparable partner in this industry.

MLG events deliver on an immersive experience for fans: interactive venues that focus on production value, bringing every event to life. Off the start, banners drape the main entrances of hallways leading into the venue, giving a weighty impression of the greatest teams and a small taste of the ambience and experience inside the venue.

There is no shortage of talent in MLG’s stacked roster to highlight either. The company swaggers with an unrivaled amount of combined industry experience. Chris ‘Puckett’ Puckett, for example, is a name any competitive Halo fan would know. The accomplished commentator narrated much of the game’s history. He was later referred as the voice of Major League Gaming. Not only did Puckett create a signature sound that a generation of individuals associated with Halo, he also played an authoritative producer role in development of the MLG Pro Circuit series.

MLG is king of content — a never-ending streamline of clips, interviews and promotions continually draw the eyes of fans. The scope of this material includes engaging spots that create or build upon an even larger story surrounding the games. Through its subsidiary, Gamebattles, a tasteful feature of high-caliber material is also brought to the screens of enthusiasts. MLG’s approach to furnishing content for viewers is exactly the type of dedicated substance that Halo is currently lacking.

What to expect next year for Halo

With the announcement still being so fresh, there’s little public information about what Halo will look and feel like this upcoming year. The outlook for Halo in 2018 is bright. It was disappointing that the two separated in the first place. But the reunification has outwardly generated enough velocity for the upcoming year to make up for the time lost.

Expect to see a cameo from a few of your old favorite Halo casters. Those should include Puckett and DiGiovanni, which Puckett had subtly hinted at on Twitter. A majority of us are looking forward to seeing Halo presented in an entirely new fashion. After seeing the luminosity of the partnership in the past, both organizations have matured over the last several years. That is anticipated to amplify the next presentation of Halo.

MLG Orlando in mid-February will be the first stop of the Halo World Championship road map. It will be our first glimpse of the next generation of Halo. I foresee the union of the two powerhouses bringing upon a new era of excitement and renaissance in esports that will have a lasting impression for decades to come.

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Cody Luongo
- ESPN eSports analyst, Master's of Science and exploring the intricacies of competitive gaming. A communication specialist driven by understanding esports as a business and helping drive it to the next level of viewership & engagement. Favorite hobbies include sniping in Halo 2 and playing paintball on Sundays.