Microsoft is trying to grow its reach in the eSports market with the announcement of the Xbox Live Tournaments Program at the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco on March 17.
The program will create a simplified way for game developers to create tournaments between their games using Xbox Live, according to Jason Ronald, head of Xbox Advanced Technology Group at Microsoft. The system will utilize Xbox Live to create a single platform between both Xbox One and Windows 10. “Xbox Live is the connective tissue between all of the devices in our ecosystem,” Ronald said in the presentation.
While Microsoft has previously worked in the eSports, creating the Halo World Championship in 2015, this is their first integration with the Xbox platform as a whole. “eSports is not a new trend. It’s not a new fad,” said Ronald. “It’s very clearly here to stay.” The program will allow developers to run their own events be able to handle both large and small events. This could be used for growing their player community as well as attracting professional level attention.
“eSports is not a new trend. It’s not a new fad. It’s very clearly here to stay” – Jason Ronald of Microsoft
For this new program, Microsoft has partnered with online eSports organizers FaceIt and the ESL. Microsoft did not give any details in their presentation, but said more partnerships will be coming in the future.
As the newer of the two partners, FaceIt touts itself as the “leading competitive gaming platform”. They expressed enthusiasm about the partnership. FaceIT chief executive Niccolo Maisto described in a post as “a monumental moment for the future of competitive gaming and the growth of eSports.” Joanna Mason, principal program manager for Xbox, echoed this calling the partnership a “revolutionary step for the evolution of eSports” due to allowing developers access to the right tools.
The ESL looks forward to the partnership on the program. “The tournament experience on ESL platforms looks to see a significant increase thanks to our partnership with Microsoft,” according to a statement in the company blog by Arne Peters, a vice president with the company. The ESL, established in 1997, is currently preparing to help developers transition when the program launches.
Microsoft is releasing a preview SDK to developers today, and expects games using this feature to come out later this year.
Writer’s note: This article was updated to correct the name of the ESL (formerly Electronic Sports League).