Movie studio Lionsgate is teaming up with Twitch and Major League Gaming (MLG) to create a StarCraft II tournament with a cash prize of more than $20,000. The sponsorship is to promote the release of Ender’s Game – a sci-fi flick that features its own virtual reality game for space combat – on DVD, Blu-ray and Video on Demand (VoD).

Sponsored video game tournaments are nothing new, but the backing from a major motion picture company such as Lionsgate highlights a new level of recognition and influence for eSports. The qualifying rounds will be streamed via Twitch (February 5–9) and MLG.TV (February 11–16) in the coming weeks, before advancing to a Championship Round that Twitch will broadcast on February 22. Cash prizes will be awarded for all three events, culminating in a grand prize of $10,000 for the tournament champion.

It’s likely that, at least for the near future, Lionsgate will refrain from further partnerships with Twitch, given that most of its films won’t be as well-suited as Ender’s Game for eSports coverage. Nevertheless, it shows that competitive and professional video game tournaments have grown to a point where businesses outside of the industry are beginning to take notice.

Twitch revealed last month that 900,000 people now broadcast their gameplay sessions through its livestreaming platform every month. That equates to 6 million streams and 45 million unique viewers over the four-month period. The service is integrated with the PlayStation 4, allowing anyone to stream their gameplay sessions, and is expected to hit the Xbox One early this year.

Twitch

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