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Hollywood turns to eSports with 'StarCraft II' tournament sponsorship

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For the first time, a Hollywood studio is sponsoring a pro-gaming event. Lionsgate Entertainment's StarCraft II tournament is called the "Ender's Game on Blu-Ray Tournament," and has been organized with partners Major League Gaming and streaming service Twitch, ahead of the movie's Blu-Ray release on February 11th. The move marks a strengthening of ties between Hollywood and the pro-gaming industry, after MLG announced a deal with studio Relativity last October that saw the eSports organizer committing to promote Relativity's movies across its channels.

The full tournament will involve 32 US-based pro-gamers, including Sasha "Scarlett" Hostyn — winner of MLG's most recent StarCraft II tournament — and Choi "Polt" Seong Hun, a prior champion of South Korea's Global StarCraft II League. Players are split into two groups of 16. The first group are currently playing in a set of qualifying matches that will continue until February 9th, broadcast on video game streaming site Twitch. The second group will battle between February 11th and 16th, with their matches shown live on Major League Gaming's The qualifiers will advance to a final, Championship round, due to be streamed live by Twitch on February 22nd. Winners of the first two rounds will take home up to $3,000, while the prize pot for the Championship round is $10,000, of which $7,000 goes to the winner.

The 32 players have been split into two groups of 16, with the winner taking home $10,000

The sponsored event is the second time Major League Gaming has run a StarCraft II eSports tournament in 2014. The game was previously dropped from MLG's schedule as CEO Sundance DiGiovanni said it "didn't fit into plans." Since StarCraft II's reintroduction, MLG has invited players that reside in the United States to its tournaments, rather than include Korean and European players who have traditionally shown better results.

According to Variety, Lionsgate will be the first of many studios that will look to eSports to promote their movies "to the lucrative young male demo that's become tougher to get their films in front of." Anne Parducci, the studio's executive vice president of marketing, said "the skills used to develop battle leaders in Ender's Game" — a story about a brilliant, but violent and withdrawn child — "are drawn from real world gaming."