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The MLG Spring Championship took place in Anaheim, CA this past weekend, where $200,000 was awarded to professional gamers and new StarCraft 2: Heart of Swarm multiplayer units were playable for the first time. This upcoming SC2 expansion isn’t ready for competition yet, so the pros were competing in StarCraft 2, League of Legends, Mortal Kombat, Soul Calibur 5 and The King of Fighters 13. MLG events have included everything from FPS to racing competitions in the past, but in Anaheim, RTS and fighting games were half of the focus.
KeSPA was the other major attraction at this Major League Gaming event. So, not only did this mark the 60th tournament for MLG, it was the first in which the uber-popular Korean eSports Association flew some of its team members to the U.S. to play StarCraft 2. Previously, these South Korean rockstars of the eSports world were staying true to 1998’s StarCraft: Brood War. The eight players who were part of the KeSPA Invitational on Saturday night demoed a different style and strategy than everyone else, bringing their hardcore skills of Brood War to Wings of Liberty. In the end, KeSPA team member Flash won this live-streamed tournament.
KeSPA’s entrance into this arena in Anaheim proves the global reach of Major League Gaming. “I’m thinking our global broadcast from this event will crush [previous MLG events],” said Major League Gaming CEO Sundance DiGiovanni in the speech to kick off the weekend-long competition. “We’re going into China, France, all over the globe.”
League of Legends is one of the newer reasons that millions are tuning in from 175 countries. This particular MLG event featured 20 of the best LoL teams in North America and Europe in a 5v5 format. Every match was live streamed, and while all of the gaming action took place on the inside of 5v5 sound-proof booths, live commentary ran to the delight of cheering spectators on the outside. There was $40,000 in the pool and half of that went to the winning team. The top-seeded team, SoloMid, won the Providence 2011 Championships and once again took home the prize money in this League of Legends competition: $20,000.
LoL may be a new fan favorite, but StarCraft 2 remains the RTS game that makes the MLG crowd roar with excitement. Backing up that player passion is $76,000 split among 16 of the best players in the “Koprulu Sector.” These 16 were whittled down from a competition that began with a 144 brutal open bracket, described by the announcers as “the toughest things out there” and “ridiculously destructive.” With a MLG TV subscription, at-home spectators could live stream each match and follow friends, even if they were the last seed in the open bracket.
21-year-old South Korean player Park Soo Ho, aka DongRaeGu, survived the onslaught to take home the MLG trophy and his $25,000 prize money on Sunday. He belongs to the team MVP - yes, there are other teams besides KeSPA in South Korea - and played as Zerg with the final game lasting a longer-than-usual 20 minutes. By comparison, his previous game (with the same player since it was best of four games) was a little over eight minutes long. That’s not due to rushing with Zerg, either. These guys are just that fast.
Fighting games had a presence, albeit a much smaller one at the MLG Spring Championship. Likewise, the prize pot was a little bit smaller. Mortal Kombat had $26,700 in prizes available, with DetroitBalln - who apparently hails from Phoenix, Arizona of all places - fought his way up the Kombatants ladder to a $10,000 first-place prize. Soul Calibur 5 handed out $16,700, with player Keev_ wielding a $6,000 check at the end. Finally, the KoF 13 prize pool amounted to $5,000. Player IGL-BALA took the lion’s share of $2,500.
The MLG Spring Championship in Anaheim was a success because of KeSPA’s presence and the games, StarCraft 2 and League of Legends especially, provided more awesome moments in the league’s ten-year competition history. The $76,000 in prize money didn’t hurt, either. We didn’t actually hear anyone say “I’m going to Disneyland” right after winning their games, but since it’s right next door to the Anaheim Convention Center, I’m sure Mickey Mouse was happy to greet all of the prize-winning players -- the line operator at the video game-like Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters, not so much.