Electronic Arts, Major League Gaming Find Money In Video Game Play

EA Sports-Fight Night Round 4

Electronic Arts (EA) reported a partnership Monday with Major League Gaming (MLG) to bring the 2009 EA Sports Challenge Series to gamers. Beginning this summer, MLG will operate live and online competitions for multiple titles from the EA Sports lineup.

The EA-branded competition will run alongside MLG events in numerous cities across the country. Big Box retailer Best Buy continues its commitment to the EA Sports Challenge Series. Gamers will play on Sony PlayStation 3 consoles.

Steven Chiang, SVP and group general manager at EA Sports, Electronic Arts, says MLG hooked EA Sports into the partnership with videos and content, allowing gamers to live on as stars long after competitions end. Videos that highlight Gamers of the Week will post on EA's Web site and Google's YouTube.

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The EA Sports Challenge Series will include Madden, NBA Live, and Fight Night. Madden and Fight Night will have three regular-season events, plus championships. NBA Live will have two regular-season events plus a championship.

Chiang says finding the money from sponsors to run the events has been the biggest challenge. Although EA Sports committed to hosting fewer events this year, each provides more activities and chances to win money. This year, EA added the Fight Night Round 4 boxing tournament, with prizes totaling $10,500 for the season.

Both online and live competitors in the 2009 EA Sports Challenge Series will compete for cash and prizes totaling more than $170,000, made possible by Sony PlayStation. The total prize money for the Madden Challenge is $130,000. Last year's Madden Challenge competition distributed about $85,000.

For this year's finals, $100,000 will be distributed: the grand prize winner gets $50,000; second place $25,000; third place $15,000; fourth place $10,000. MLG will distribute $10,000 to the top four players at each regular season event. Total prizes for NBA is $12,000 throughout the season.

"Sponsorship money is difficult to come by this year, but we are trying to make events bigger and focus on getting videos on the Web, so they live longer," Chiang says. "To say the event is profitable is going a bit far. This is really a marketing event. It's about building awareness for the titles and brand. To be competitive, you need to have the game and play it."

Matthew Bromberg, president and CEO of Major League Gaming, says many past sponsors have signed up again. "For a company our size, growth is always a lucky -- or rather, happy -- challenge, especially in this economic environment," he says. "Adding a whole new property is always a challenge, but we're really excited about it. Sponsor sales for 2010 seem really strong."

Sponsors for the MLG Pro Circuit, which runs alongside the new EA Sorts event, include Dr Pepper, Old Spice, Ballpark, Tinactin, Castrol, Stride, Astro, and Bic. Several big deals are still pending for MLG in major categories, such as packaged good snacks, auto insurance, apparel, military and mobile.

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