Regardless of what you may think, the grassroots of competitive gaming stem from Video Game Centers commonly known as “LAN” Centers. The overall concept of a LAN Center is based on the popular Video Game Arcades of the late 70′s and early 80′s wherein direct head-to-head competition and social interaction were the main reasons behind their rise to viability. Even in those early years of competitive gaming, many of the elements that make Major League Gaming successful today were encompassed in the Arcade industry thirty years ago. For example, the Video Game Master’s Tournament was a national event held from 1983-1987 that tracked the high scores of major arcade titles in a select number of major cities across the country…sound a little familiar? There were also all-star teams of the nation’s best Arcade players assembled by some of the dominant arcade centers in the country to build the reputation of that Arcade. The concept was obviously ahead of its time because it ended abruptly with the death of the Arcade era.
Fast forward to the late 90s which gave way to the Nintendo 64, Sony Playstation, and SEGA Dreamcast and we witnessed a major, streamlined shift to home entertainment within the video game industry. Instead of going to the arcades to play an outdated version of Street Fighter, many gamers began bringing an extra controller to a friend’s house for an all night session of Goldeneye. Furthermore the interjection of high-speed internet, better gaming systems, and the rise and fall of numerous E-Sports leagues in the early 2000s provides clarity for big picture.
The big picture of course is that video game centers are a relevant component to the existence of Major League Gaming. Perhaps even more interesting is the success posed by Major League Gaming and its potentially explosive impact on the LAN center business model. How these two separate, but similar entities become interdependent is as simple as comparing the minor leagues to the majors. The more prolific MLG becomes, the more important it is for young gamers to utilize a facility that fosters a similar LAN environment. After all, the basic environment of a Video Game Center is essentially a smaller scale Major League Gaming event.
Think about the recent rise in emphasis on “LANNING” that Pro Halo teams have shown by orchestrating monumental practices weeks before an event. Pro Halo players, for the most part are the only ones able to afford traveling numerous weekends to LAN in different cities of other Pro teams. LAN centers provide a relatively inexpensive outlet in numerous cities and regions across the country for any amateur player to receive similar practice, yet there are various problems withholding those amateur players from understanding those benefits.
There is not a unified cooperation effort or communication channel between Video Game Centers and Major League Gaming despite striking similarities. Quite frankly, a large percentage of Video Game Centers are poorly managed, ill equipped and underfunded – a complete failure by most standards. I’m sure MLG is aware, even still the small percentage of centers capable of maintaining such a unified cooperation effort, in fact do exist and can be tactically utilized for big picture business.
Another factor, high-speed internet decentralizes the LAN concept by allowing players to create teams online and compete from home via Gamebattles, only to show up at their first MLG event unprepared. Technology, the last major problem, moves at a rate that hinders substantial growth for the Video Game Center model and poses a significant problem for Major League Gaming. Each year new games release while older titles become less popular. From Halo to Call of Duty, Xbox to Xbox 360; each era in gaming creates rifts in mainstream media consumption from the previous technological generation.
Concepts and Solutions
Let’s do a bit of speculative thinking with some what-if scenarios:
- MLG Officially licenses “MLG approved” Video Game Centers around the nation.
What this means is that Major League Gaming would need to create a program that allows Video Game Centers to “opt-in” or apply to a program to carry a title that approves their qualifications as a LAN Center sanctioned by “Major League Gaming.” In this program, instead of the not-so-good Doritos Combine idea, LAN centers in multiple locations around the US usher in upcoming talent. If 20 centers were approved that spreads out both the reach and validity of having a “combine.” This is coming from someone that experienced and witnessed numerous combines up until my last year in collegiate football. The competitive gaming community does not need Doritos to sponsor a combine event that gets 150 teams to spend $400-$700 on another stop during the year. If I remember correctly, MLG had less teams turnout the years with too many stops. The target demographic cannot support spending money on more events in a year. More often than not, local LAN tournaments are how most players gain experience and money to travel to the large scale MLG events.
The other idea that stems from this concept is a weighted, online pro circuit seeding system for teams able to play in a “MLG Approved” facility versus strictly online at Gamebattles. It could make a big difference in cleaning up some of the sportsmanship, cheating, and disputes seen in the online-only community. This could be a center versus center or strictly within each center.
- MLG Product Distribution
If Major League Gaming is able to develop its own game, it makes sense to be able to distribute it sufficiently within a network of Video Game Centers around the nation. Or the recent announcement that MLG would be selling it merchandise in Lids locations around the US. Don’t get me wrong, I love that they inked a deal with Lids, but we have a store here in Terre Haute, Indiana and I think my brother and I are the only ones that went and picked up our hats. I have seen more people sporting eBash T-Shirts than MLG hats in this area, maybe it is different in New York? The everyday, direct clientele of a Video Game Center caters more towards the demographic that MLG captures than an avid Football fan.
Perhaps they decide to release a new controller specifically for competitive gaming. What better way to get feedback than to distribute to centers that can provide relevant feedback to improve the product. GameStop, Toys R Us and Best Buy don’t provide that kind of engagement – something that could be vital to MLG if they bought a company like say, Razer. I’m sure these things have or will be discussed in the near future.
The relevance of a Video Game Center has the potential to increase as Major League Gaming’s gives way to more superstar Pro Players and teams that emphasize the importance of LAN practice. I certainly feel there is an opportunity for both parties if they work together in figuring out how to bring about more growth to e-Sports.
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