It's no secret that competitive gaming has seen significant growth over the last couple of years, with games like League of Legends and Hearthstone pulling in consistent viewership on Twitch and selling out huge stadiums around the world. While most of the top popular eSports titles are games in the MOBA or FPS categories, one other genre has also made headway in recent months: fighting games. Franchises like Street Fighter and Super Smash Bros have always had a passionate fan base, but now more and more publishers are embracing these communities and providing official support.
Now, Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment and Mortal Kombat X developer NetherRealm Studios are the latest to jump on the eSports hype train. The duo announced a partnership this morning with The Electronic Sports League that will see the creation of at least two major tournaments featuring Mortal Kombat X, which releases April 14. The one most will be interested in is the Mortal Kombat X ESL Pro League Tournament for Xbox One players, as it is open to the public and features a prize pool of $100,000.
The Pro League Tournament opens April 19 to all Xbox One players in North America and Europe. It will feature weekly competitions that offer $1,000 in cash and players will be battling for one of the 16 qualifying spots for the grand finals July 11 in Los Angeles.
That six-figure prize pool could be increased further, as some of the proceeds of the Blue Steel skin for Sub-Zero in Mortal Kombat X will go towards the tournament. Using crowdfunding to increase tournament winnings is becoming increasingly popular among publishers. Valve has proved that it works with The International competition for Dota 2, and just last week Red Bull announced it would use a similar scheme for its own Dota 2 tournament.
In a statement, Mortal Kombat X creative director Ed Boon said the company is excited to take Mortal Kombat into the competitive arena.
“NetherRealm Studios is a huge supporter of the pro fighting game scene and to be able to work with ESL on the Pro League Tournament allows us to take the Mortal Kombat X competition beyond what we’ve ever done before. “We’ve seen some incredible match-ups in the past and we can’t wait to see what this next level of competition brings.”
Players can sign up for the Mortal Kombat X Worldwide Competitive Program on the official website. A link on that site also shows plans for a "Mortal Kombat Cup", a smaller international tournament with thousands of euros up for grabs. It's curious that the ESL Pro League only supports the Xbox One and not the PlayStation 4 with this initial tournament, but if the "Who's Next" website is any indication, this is likely just the first salvo for Mortal Kombat's arrival onto the eSports scene. Additional tournaments in the future for both consoles seem quite likely, especially if this first one is a success.
Speaking of other tournaments, NetherRealm is also hosting the Fatal 8 Exhibition Tournament on April 11, the day before MKX launches. The studio is recruiting eight of the top pro fighting game players in the world to play each other, no doubt in an effort to build hype for the title. Fans who live near the ESL Studios in Burbank can get tickets to watch the tournament live. Everyone else can watch on NetherRealm's Twitch channel.
The fighting game community or FGC as they refer to themselves has long been passionate about titles like Street Fighter, Tekken and Smash Bros. Mortal Kombat historically has not had as large of a following as its competition in the genre, at least not in the competitive arena. But this new program with ESL sounds like it could be just the shot in the arm the franchise needs to establish itself as a long term presence on the eSports scene. Will you be signing up for your shot at some of that $100,000? Let us know in the comments.
Mortal Kombat X will release April 14 on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC, and mobile devices. PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 versions of the title will release later this summer.
Source: Mortal Kombat