In a major play by Microsoft to keep up with and hopefully dominate the world of competitive video games and video game consoles, it has announced that it will give away a total of $1 million in prize money in its upcoming Halo competition. The competition will follow the October 27th release of Halo 5: Guardians, which is expected to be one of the videogame industry’s biggest sellers this holiday season. As the world of competitive video games, or e-sports as it known in the biz, continues to boom, Microsoft is finally focusing its attention in that direction.
When Halo was originally released, it was the choice videogame of players everywhere. However, when Halo 4 came out in 2012, many professional gamers did not like the new version of the game, claiming it was “poorly balanced” and very difficult to play. Major League Gaming, an e-sports company that brought a higher standard of organization and professionalism to game tournaments dropped Halo from its competitive tournaments following its 2012 season. Instead, it teamed up Activision to feature Call of Duty, a game attracting more buzz.
In response to competition by Call of Duty and Play Station 4, Microsoft hopes the release of Halo 5 will lead to increased sales of the console that plays the game, the XBox One.
The growing interest from companies in e-sports results from the sheer amount of money invested in the industry. There is an estimated 113 million e-sports fans worldwide. Many of these fans are considered the most loyal and committed gamers anywhere, watching the games online, playing the games, and paying large amounts of money for components that will enhance their gaming experience. To them, e-sports competitors are major celebrities. Moreover, competitions held in arenas across the globe attract hundreds of thousands of players and spectators. Hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue are generated from sales of the games, consoles and accessories. Additionally, revenue from ticket sales to e-sports competitions and corporate sponsorships is expected to grow by 30% to greater than $250 million this year, according to Newzoo, a research firm that analyzes the competitive video game market.
Frank O’Connor, the franchise development director for Halo stated that, “With Halo 5, [Microsoft] is getting back what the core of the game is.” With new technical and financial support for e-sports, including better prize money and clearer rules, professional Halo players say it will help increase Halo competition.