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Microsoft's Halo World Championship antes up $1M for e-sports glory

The company would love to see its upcoming computer game Halo 5: Guardians become a solid favorite among professional gamers. Toward that end, it's offering up the big bucks.

Microsoft hopes to see its Halo 5 Guardians game become a favorite among e-sports pros. 343 Industries

Microsoft wants to pump up the appeal of its Halo game franchise among professional gamers.

Later this year, the company will launch the first-ever Halo World Championship, an e-sports competition with $1 million in prizes, Microsoft announced at the Gamescom conference on Tuesday. The sum is the highest ever paid for a Halo tournament and will be available only to gamers playing Halo 5: Guardians, which launches October 27 to become the latest installment in the Halo franchise.

"The Halo series has always been synonymous with console [e-sports] and online competition," Microsoft wrote in a video description on YouTube. "With Halo 5: Guardians we are fully embracing that legacy with the announcement of the inaugural Halo World Championship, which launches later this year, featuring over $1 million dollars in prizing. The Halo World Championship will focus on Halo 5: Guardians' hypercompetitive Arena multiplayer experience."

Microsoft doubling down on e-sports is further proof of the unique and important impact the trend has had on the gaming world. E-sports have become a major industry, as some of the top gamers around the world battle each other in a wide range of games. In some cases, individuals will play each other, while in others, teams will compete. Several popular franchises, including Halo and Dota, are among the favorites for e-sports professionals.

The growth of e-sports has spawned professional gamers who make a career of playing video games. They often make money not only by winning games but also through sponsorships offered by connected companies. The firms that back e-sports tournaments, meanwhile, are cashing in. According to market research firm Newzoo, e-sports revenue generated from tickets, events, sponsorships and other sources will exceed $250 million worldwide this year. Newzoo estimates that there are over 113 million e-sports fans worldwide who tune in over the Web or attend events to see gamers competing.

With that much attention, Microsoft could potentially prop up Halo 5 as time goes on. Given the popularity of previous titles in the franchise, Halo 5 is expected to be popular at launch. Becoming a hit with e-sports professionals and their fans could extend the title's appeal and keep the millions of people deeply interested in the digital sport continuing to play the game long after its launch. Dota 2, a wildly popular game that launched in 2013, is arguably one of the best examples of that.

"With Halo 5: Guardians we are fully embracing that legacy to make Halo, the Xbox One and the Elite controller the gold standard" for console e-sports, a Microsoft spokeswoman said in an e-mailed statement.

Halo 5: Guardians is the second installment in the second trilogy in Halo's history. The first trilogy was designed by the franchise's creator, Bungie. That game company, previously owned by Microsoft, agreed to hand over the Halo franchise to Microsoft so it could be spun off into an independent company. Microsoft's 343 Industries is now in charge of the franchise and designed Guardians' predecessor, Halo 4.

In addition to announcing Halo World Championship at Gamescom on Tuesday, Microsoft during its keynote presentation showcased a matchup between two of the world's best e-sports teams, Team Epsilon and OpTic Gaming, on a multiplayer map in Halo 5. Microsoft also announced a Limited Edition Halo 5: Guardians controller it will launch on October 20, and it announced that another Halo entrant, Halo Wars 2, will be available in the fall of 2016.