“Ender’s Game” screenshot. (Lionsgate / February 12, 2014)


Hollywood has finally taken notice of the growing global eSports phenomenon. Lionsgate Home Entertainment, which just launched "Ender's Game" on Blu-ray, DVD and Digital HD, is giving away $20,000 to the best pro gamers through a series of StarCraft II PC gaming tournaments. The "Ender's Game" on Blu-Ray Tournament is a first-of-its-kind competition that's running throughout the month of February through partnerships with livestreaming company Twitch and Major League Gaming (MLG).

"ESports is a great way to reach young males," said Anne Parducci, executive vice president of marketing for Lionsgate Home Entertainment. "It's a huge market. I've been exposed to it through my two teenage boys, so I'm familiar with that behavior of teens and gaming and Twitch and Major League Gaming. It's obviously bigger than most everybody knows. The Staples Center event was so incredible and so well attended. With the "Ender's Game" program we wanted to reach young males 15-34 for Blu-ray outreach. I can't think of a better way to promote "Ender's Game."

Released theatrically through Summit Entertainment, Digital Domain and OddLot Entertainment, the most expensive independently financed film in history earned over $112,000 at the global box office. That left a large potential audience for the home entertainment debut.

Parducci noted that "Ender's Game", a film about a boy being groomed for a commanding role in an epic space battle, is perfectly suited to a StarCraft II competition led by the two gaming titans. StarCraft II, set in space, is a military science fiction real-time strategy online game that is the second most popular game in eSports today -- behind Riot Games' "League of Legends." Just as Ender rose above his fellow students to become Commander of the International Fleet in first the Orson Scott Card bestselling novel and then the movie starring Harrison Ford and Asa Butterfield, one StarCraft II player will rise above his competition to become the "Ender's Game" on Blu-ray Tournament Champion in the Finals -- pocketing a $10,000 grand prize.

"The skills used to develop battle leaders in "Ender's Game" are drawn from real world gaming, especially the types of skills used by premier tournament level players," said Parducci. "We are excited to partner with Major League Gaming and Twitch, both leaders in the eSports world, to present this unprecedented movie tie-in aimed directly at those who take gaming seriously."

The United States-based tournament features 32 of the best StarCraft II players beginning with two qualifying rounds and culminating in one final competition. The players will be divided into two groups of 16 for qualifying matches airing on Twitch and MLG. The first round was broadcast on Twitch between February 5th and 9th and the second round runs from February 11th to 16th on MLG.tv. The winners from each event, in addition to winning cash prizes, will advance to the "Ender's Game" on Blu-ray Tournament: Championship Round taking place February 22nd and airing on Twitch.

"Lionsgate understands that gamers are more than a niche, they are everyone," said Ben Goldhaber, Director of Content Marketing, Twitch. "By leveraging Twitch's community of 45 million gamers, many of whom spend hours playing and watching sci-fi inspired games, creating an eSport event around "Ender's Game" on our platform makes perfect sense."

"MLG's global audience spend an average of 150 minutes a weekend watching professionally produced eSports content on MLG.tv and they look to fill the non-gaming hours of their day with action-packed entertainment and movies like "Ender's Game"," said Don Reilley, executive vice president of sales, Major League Gaming. "The Enders Game on Blu-ray Tournament is a perfect example of the great competitions and broadcasts that are possible with partners on the MLG.tv platform."

Twitch reached out to key Starcraft communities and invited them to send their top talent to compete in the "Ender's Game" on Blu-ray Tournament: Twitch Round. The 16 players selected to compete in the qualifying round on Twitch were selected for being among the best StarCraft II players the United States has to offer. The players include: Chris "HuK" Loranger; Paulo "CatZ" Vizcarra; Choi "Polt" Seong Hun; Kim "violet" Dong Hwan; Gage "Sasquatch" DuBose; Chad "Minigun" Jones; Brandon "puck" Qual; Alex "Neeb" Sunderhaft; Conan "Suppy" Liu; Bailey "Bails" Thomas; Max "Astrea" Angel; Kevin "qxc" Riley; Chris "Illusion" Lee; Zifeng "hellokitty" Wang; and Libo "xenocider" Chang.

This is the first ever tournament on Twitch to be sponsored by a major motion picture studio. This convergence of Hollywood and eSports illustrates the growing mainstream appeal of competitive gaming. For the qualifying rounds Twitch has partnered with MLG to help identify the best competitors, while the grand finale competition will be hosted on Twitch, the world's leading video platform and community for gamers.

Director Gavin Hood has faithfully adapted Card's Nebula and Hugo award-winning sci-fi story for the big (and now small) screen with "Ender's Game". That bodes well for those who skipped the theatrical release. In the near future, a hostile alien race (called the Formics) have attacked Earth. If not for the legendary heroics of International Fleet Commander Mazer Rackham (Ben Kingsley), all would have been lost. In preparation for the next attack, the highly esteemed Colonel Hyrum Graff (Ford) and the International Military are training only the best young children to find the future Mazer. Ender Wiggin (Butterfield), a shy, but strategically brilliant boy is pulled out of his school to join the elite.

Arriving at Battle School, Ender quickly and easily masters increasingly difficult war games, distinguishing himself and winning respect amongst his peers. Ender is soon ordained by Graff as the military's next great hope, resulting in his promotion to Command School. Once there, he's trained by Mazer Rackham, himself, to lead his fellow soldiers into an epic battle that will determine the future of Earth and save the human race.

While book fans will find a streamlined story (even at a full two hours), the essence remains. Although there are plenty of amazing special effects from Digital Domain, the film features a powerful cast including Ford, Butterfield, Viola Davis, Hailee Steinfeld and Abigail Breslin. The human drama (built around a potential second alien attack) blends nicely with the video game effects. Video games play a central role in the film, as Ender Wiggin essentially plays games to train for real-world space battles featuring thousands of fighters and mammoth battleships.

With six more books in the franchise, a strong home entertainment release could help propel a theatrical sequel forward. There are many different directions to go (depending on which book the second film follows), but for now fans have both a StarCraft II video game tournament and a solid Blu-ray edition to their library to keep them entertained.

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