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MS, News Corp team up for pro gaming league

Making video gamers national idols

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Microsoft and various divisions of News Corp made another major move this week to dominate gaming, with the announcement of a professional gaming league that will make cultural icons, rather like today's skateboarding, wrestling or basketball players from video game players.

News Corp will aim the big guns of DirecTV, IGN Entertainment and Fox Interactive Media at the project, which is likely to glorify Microsoft Xbox games above the soon to be launched Sony PS3.

Sponsor, Mountain Dew, and retailer Best Buy will add their weight to launch the Championship Gaming Series during 2007. The tournaments – three a year - will be broadcast in a kind of reality TV show, something that Fox is brilliant at, over the DirecTV satellite TV service, giving it yet more exclusive "sports" content.

With the weight of promotion these companies can bring, the Championship Gaming Series could potentially grow into a full TV channel and immediately wipe out the exiting professional gaming leagues, Cyberathlete Professional League, Global Gaming League, Major League Gaming and Video Gamers League.

The televised games will feature one on one league play, using technology that will take viewers inside the actual game competitions. This will likely take the form of a video representation of play characters and might begin the creation of a platform that could be used to show games over the Xbox Live service. The statement said that through broadcast and online media, the CGS will be available to the gaming community 24 hours a day, seven days a week, year round.

As we have said in recent weeks, Microsoft is almost certain to use both its recent Massive acquisition and its Xbox Live network as a basis for advertising both in and around games. This married up with the News Corp owned IGN Entertainment, which reaches 35m gamers per month, will mean the show becomes a "de facto" leader overnight.

Prizes will be donated by fizzy drink brand Mountain Dew, in the form of the "Dew Cup" and huge amounts of prize money.

DirecTV said it will place virtual cameras within the video games themselves and allow DirecTV customers to experience video games in much the same manner as other professional sports. So if this is a "shoot 'em up", the views of the characters won't merely be those that can be seen from the screen, but also include key viewing points from around the game.

The three tournaments this year will be a warm-up for the start of CGS league play in 2007, and the first of these will take place on July 21, 2006.

This week at US gaming show E3 Microsoft, chairman Bill Gates announced Live Anywhere, which allows video gamers to play games with each other whether they're on Windows Vista computers, Xbox 360, game machines, or even mobile phones.

Copyright © 2006, Wireless Watch

Wireless Watch is published by Rethink Research, a London-based IT publishing and consulting firm. This weekly newsletter delivers in-depth analysis and market research of mobile and wireless for business. Subscription details are here.

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