Major League Gaming has announced their plans to open a 15,000-person seated spectator arena on Hengqin Island, China, located off the coast of Macau. MLG is teaming up with Lai Fung Holdings Limited (Lai Fung) and eSun Holdings Limited (eSun) to put the project inside the 'V-Zone', which is described as the first-in-the-world video game destination planned as a centerpiece of Lai Fung’s Renminbi 18 billion 'Creative Culture City' development on Hengqin Island.
“We are very pleased and excited to be working closely with MLG and we hope to crystallize the MLG Arena in the V-Zone and bring it to fruition”, said Chew Fook Aun, Chairman of Lai Fung and executive director of eSun, in a press release. "MLG, Lai Fung and eSun will ensure that the MLG Gaming Arena and V-Zone will comply with all relevant PRC regulation."
MLG, Lai Fung and eSun plan on opening the space by 2017, though no images of the stadium have been released.
MLG President and co-founder Mike Sepso tells onGamers the deal has been in talks for the last 7 months. Sepso spoke on why the company has decided to build their first arena concept in China instead of the United States or America.
"This development on Hengquin Island is a true stadium and the first of its kind", Sepso told onGamers. "This is a massive development in one of the most visited tourist destinations in the world. Additionally, the China gaming market is enormous and the fastest growing on earth. The anticipated launch of the MLG Arena in 2017 will give MLG a very strong foothold in that market, but also a marquis travel destination to showcase eSports at the highest level."
"In the US we have been working on partnerships with existing stadiums and arenas and we will be announcing those later this year."
While League of Legends and Dota 2 lead the way for international eSports games in China and Activision's high hopes for Call of Duty Online to succeed there, Sepso says "no decisions on games will be made until much closer to the opening date".
When asked if MLG will work directly with the Association of China E-sports (ACE) within China, which oversees eSports activity in the country much like KeSPA does in South Korea, Sepso says they will be working with several organizations once the arena is completed.
"Our goal is to work with Lai Sun to build the V-Zone and MLG Arena into the world’s flagship gaming destination", he said. "We are currently in discussions with a wide array of leagues, event organizers, publishers and developers about being involved in the V-Zone and MLG Arena."
MLG's press release states plans to utilize the mlg.tv streaming platform to broadcast from the arena. While most of the international streaming audience is on Twitch, much of the Chinese audience watches games on China-based streaming platforms such as Gamefy, which broadcasts, such as Valve's Dota 2 International. Sepso says they will rely on partners and investors to assist them in getting off the ground in China.
"Through our backbone providers, we are able to deliver content globally at the very highest quality. However our focus in regions like Asia will actually be to partner with local distributors or global partners who specialize in the region", said Sepso. "In terms of traditional distribution, our partner Relativity Media co owns Skyland, a Chinese movie and television studio, and our largest investor Oak Investment Partners has a portfolio of Chinese investments and a venture team in China, so this is a well-supported move for MLG."
In February, MLG launched their first international franchise in Brazil. MLG CEO Sundance DiGiovanni spoke to onGamers at the Call of Duty World Championships about the crowded streaming space headed into 2014.