In the past few years, eSports have gone from strength to strength. Giving gamers a chance to compete against one another for prizes, fame and even school scholarships, the most popular eSports tournaments have sold out arenas and have even been broadcast on ESPN.
The prizes in particular are why there's such a massive draw for eSports. Not only are they recognized as a valid career (that foreign players can now acquire Visas for) but it lets people live out their dreams of 'making money from playing games', the $2 million prize pot of Dota 2's The International tournament being a prime example. However, the biggest games in eSports have been mostly been on PC with Hearthstone, Dota 2, League of Legends and Starcraft 2 getting top billing.
Call of Duty and FIFA are two of the only console games to really do eSports in a big way but with the freshly announced Halo Championship Series, one of the most popular Xbox game franchises is set to join them.
The decision to launch the Halo Championship Series (HCS) comes from developers 343 Industries’ "desire to curate a quality esports experience for pro players, enthusiasts and spectators alike". Hosted by the eSports League (ESL) and partnered with Twitch, the HCS will make good use of Halo 2: Anniversary's new multiplayer engine in Halo: The Master Chief Collection which is set to launch on Xbox One next week.
According to 343, once the series kicks off post-launch (November is just the pre-season) it will pit teams of four Spartans up against each other as they compete "in a structured series of online and in-person LAN events." Do well at official HCS tournaments (there will be both LAN and online events) and your team will be awarded points which will then determine your position at the end of the season in March 2015.
What does being a top team get you? It bags them a chance to compete against other top teams at the HCS season finals next year and compete to officially be the best. There's no word on where those finals will be held or even what the prize pool will be, but the title of 'world's best Halo team' is surely a draw all of its own.
What is a slight concern about the Halo Championship Series is the apparent lack of qualifiers. 343 Industries states that "teams with the highest HCS point totals" will be invited to the finals and so by logic, those who compete in the most tournaments will have the greatest shot.
Teams that can't compete at LAN tournaments (e.g because there aren't any near them) will find themselves at a huge disadvantage as even if they are fantastic Halo players they'll have less of a chance to prove it and less of a chance at getting to the finals. Meanwhile, those in major cities will reap the benefits of HCS tournaments being hosted near them.
For those who don't want to compete or just want to learn more about the HCS, the Halo: The Master Chief Collection Launch Invitational tournament kicks off at the weekend. The dev explains that "32 of the world’s biggest names in FPS eSports will be facing off for their share of $50,000" and we'll be able to watch it on the Halo Twitch channel from Saturday, November 8th at 2PM PST.
Not only that but more info on the HCS is set to be dropped at the invitational so we'll have more for you then.
Halo: The Master Chief Collection comes to Xbox One on November 11, 2014 in North America, with global releases following after.