ESPN’s X Games Looking For a ‘Halo’ Effect

Halo 5 Guardians
Courtesy of Microsoft Studios

The X Games are hoping for an eSports bump from the Halo World Championship Tour at the action sports event in Aspen this week.

Eight teams – six from the U.S., one from the UK and one from Germany – will competed Jan. 28-31 in group play and a single-elimination tournament for medals and $30,000 in prize money. Though this will be the fifth year that the X Games features an eSports component, it will be the first with “Halo” and the organization is hoping for it to attract more viewers.

“We worked with (eSports league) MLG to figure out which title would make the most sense,” Tim Reed, vice president of X Games, said. “We looked at factors like audience and participation and based off those factors we decided.”

Games like “Call of Duty” and “Counter Strike” were featured in past X Games,but  this year is different because the tournament will be featured in ESPN coverage, as well as streaming on WatchESPN, Twitch and MLG. ESPN’s last outing with eSports didn’t go over so hot with either viewers or talent. In April of last year, ESPN 2 aired the MOBA (Multiplayer Online Battle Arena) “Heroes of the Storm” to the confusion and bewilderment of viewers and broadcasters. Then-ESPN anchor Colin Cowherd went so far as to say that he’d rather quit sports media than cover video games.

MOBA’s are difficult and confusing to people that don’t spend time with them, whether there is experience in gaming previously or not. The “Halo” franchise, on the other hand, is a highly recognizable first-person shooter that has been around for over a decade. Both ESPN and X Games are looking to appeal to a wider audience by moving in to eSports and “Halo” is a safe and smart entry point.

Che Chou, franchise media director for “Halo 5: Guardians” developers 343 Industries, disagrees with the people that question why eSports have been showing up at an action sports event like the X Games.

“We see the X Games as pushing the envelope on athletics in general and I think video games fall into that category of what is competitive,” Chou said. “We’re excited for ‘Halo’ to be a part of that dialogue and this milestone.”


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