The most highly anticipated pc game in the history of e-sports is about to unveil, time has come for SC2!
Which brings up the ultimate question of: What influence will it have on e-sports?
As someone who has been working in the field for the past 10 years, this is the one and only concern I have.
Korea managed to build the greatest e-sports infrastructure in the world, and because of it we have the best leagues, players, and teams which means we have the best e-sports content, and having the best content translates to money. I am sure this is one of the reasons why Blizzard is publishing SC2, they realize e-sports content could be a great content for the new media, and I am assuming of course, but perhaps Korean-esports phenomenon had something to do with them publishing SC2.
I was always mystified by Blizzard's lack of presence in the past with broodwar, (I can safely make an educated guess but I don't want to delve into that) they did not help to nurture e-sports, but rather let nature take it's course and then the big gigantic news hit, which of course was IEG attaining the broadcasting rights, from this point on e-sports wasn't taken very lightly, it revolutionized the industry, people realized that e-sports can create many, and big revenue models and it can actually be like a real sport. What is just plain weird about this whole transaction is that blizzard was out of the picture, they made the game? right?! I am sure blizzard was thinking the same thing, after all it is their game. Anyone can make a logical guess on what blizzard's reaction might have been on Kespa ignoring blizzard's position in the matter, so I won't elaborate on it.
All the club teams that were individually owned are now owned by the corporations, the original managers have all sold their teams to companies, including me. Once teams became corporate, everything changed. Everything became very tense and business like, everyone got into the spirit of competition a bit too much, and now we have these macrobots that only appeals to a certain demographic.
A good example is 'Flash', I am a former head coach/manager so if anyone can appreciate his talent it's me, but having these teenagers dominating the tournament circuit causes more detriment to the industry in the long run than anything else. You see what happens is, to put it simply 'it becomes a kid thing', once it gets stigmatized as such it becomes exactly that. It becomes less accessible to the mass. I wonder how popular MLB, or NBA would be if the stadiums and the courts are filled with only teenagers. Of course this would never happen with mainstream sports because, you don't reach your prime until way beyond your teenage years. Well it would not have become a mainstream entertainment to begin with if the players were only teenagers. Full grown men and women will not follow kiddie leagues.
It is important that any sports industry cater to fully grown men and women's need because they are the ones with money. Having the likes of 'Flash' of course changed the whole metagame and they do things that seems merely unimaginable to all of us, and they turned the whole game into science and as a passionate, avid user of starcraft I am thankful, but for me personally I am against the idea of having players so young. We all have noticed how every year players are getting younger and younger, and now the 'old gamers' are old enough to be uncles to majority of the active players. I was a part of the system too, I would recruit and scout the youngest players possible at the rookie drafts, and always kept vigil for new young players to scout, it usually takes 1 to 2 years to cultivate them before they become good enough to go on tv to showcase their skills to the viewers.
Having age limits to become a progamer was brought to the table in one of those committee meetings at kespa with managers, and head coaches but didn't get anywhere with it. It's just too argumentative. Both sides of the tables had valid points, those who oppose and those who don't. In Korea it is mandatory to join the service for 2 years it's another reason why we like to recruit younger players. One of the big reasons why 'Slayers Boxer' is a household name is because of his appeal to the mass. No gamer has yet challenged his superstar status.
Nada came very close however,Yellow Nalra, iloveoov, and oops reach were superstars in their own right but didn't come anywhere close to 'slayersboxer' in terms of popularity. They were all very active when 'boxer' was active which ultimately helped them to gain popularity for obvious reasons. Did you know that the Airforce team was created for the sole purpose of keeping 'Boxer' active in the leagues? so that we wouldn't lose him? Kespa played a big role in making that happen, they realized that losing him would put a big dent in the e-sports popularity, look at boxing when Tyson went to Jail. That is how big 'slayersBoxer' was. He could still regain his superstar status and respect once again if he could hang, but that is highly unlikely now. Korean e-sports reached our peak in the year 2006, and from that point on, slowly but gradually popularity has gone down.
Pretty much every and any starcraft related sites, domestic or foreign revolves around Korean starcraft, since we do have the best leagues. When the game SC2 gets published will we be able to maintain the status quo? It remains to be seen... This is the part that worries me heavily.
For everyone's sake I hope Blizzard and Kespa can work things out, but if they don't Kespa won't enjoy the same freedom as before in organizing the leagues, which means they would have to proceed with their contingency plan, whatever that is, if I had to make an educated guess, maybe every team will get together and chant "long live brood war, and the proleague!!" This makes no sense to me because who is going to watch? Some will watch in the beginning, but SC1 will be left with no choice, but recoil to underground. Even if SC2 doesn't meet the expectations, SC1 can't go on. If it does on a very smaller scale. The proleague is sponsored for roughly 2.5 million dollars for 3 years by the ShinHanBank.
Who will sponsor SC1 when there is SC2? SC1 is the 'red ocean' and SC2 is the 'blue ocean' no one is going to dive into the 'red ocean'. Also when rest of the world is playing SC2 we can't be the only ones not playing it, I am talking about the proteams of course. I can tell you this much, if and so the proteams become active in the game SC2 rest of the world won't be able to compete with them, maybe they might be able to keep up in the beginning but as it moves forward it's highly unlikely that 'gamers' can compete with 'progamers' I say this because of the corporate proteam's structure, they invest over millions of dollars into teams, progamers gets paid, monetary rewards can be the best incentive sometimes, not only that they get properly fed, having coaching staffs, and most importantly progamers have discipline, well most of them do. etc.. and if you think that you can beat progamers because you practice a lot by yourself or with your friends on battlenet ,whatever think again, you are a dreamer not a pragmatist.
The international tournament can get pretty boring if this happens, so for the betterment of e-sports it is better for Korean proteams to disband? No! Well there is the option of Professional teams forming overseas, this would be the ideal scenario for me, and I think is the best way. Blizzard should use their influence and network of corporate teams to persuade other mega corporations outside the country to form teams, it is in their best interest in the long run because the ultimate gamers are the ones who will produce great content, it is imperative to have full time gamers that dedicates themselves to games only if you want to produce great games, and stars great game is what brings in the audience.
It is important also for SC2 to constantly evolve. This can't all be accomplished by actions taken from the top only, more importantly the top people making restrictions. You gotta have soldiers in the field, running around in the field to make things happen, soldiers gotta have some leeways to find theire ways in the jungle, you can't instruct a soldier to eat vegetables when he is in the jungle you have to let him eat what he wants, and if he is able to kill a tiger for a meal let him eat that. My point is this, for e-sports to become possible, first and foremost gamers can't go hungry, they have to become financially viable only by playing games. I am not talking about users, but gamers that aspire to achieve greatness in games, gamers with passion! where the veracity of their heart is so solid that no one can contest or question their integrity. To what extent will they be looked after when SC2 hits the scene? it remains to be seen...
After all what's a million dollars to a mega-corporation? it's a pocket change. Although we do have to consider the calamities in the financial world, emm well like I said it's pocket change so I don't think it is too unwieldy. That's the beauty of it, it's relatively cheap to form a professional team, if you compare the amount of promotion, and exposure you get from it, it is very very cheap. I remember in one of my reports I made to my team's sponsor AMD long ago where I converted all the air time, and exposure my team gave them to money and it was well over one million dollars. Much Much more than the actual money they gave to us.
So these days where there are more leagues and platforms for gamers to stand on, I am certain investing one or two million dollars on a team is not big waste but a huge gain. The question is will the game SC2 have the proper platform? Will the league scale be big enough to merit the effort of mega corporations to form teams? and perhaps even a governing body? Well I guess blizzard should be the governing body. I am not talking about AMD or INTEL, it's obvious they will play a forever conspicious role in the gaming world , but I am talking about companies like Toyota and GE. I can remember the time when CocaCola sponsored the ongamenet starleague a long time ago and how it impressed everyone. If You can get companies that has merely nothing to do with games or computers to invest money that is true e-sports in the making, because that means they are acknowledging the user, fan base the gaming community has, so it might be a good idea for them to utilize the gaming community, leagues, gamers as a marketing tool. For example if you look at the fans that comes to our league games 60%~70% of them are middle, highschool girls. Makeup companies, or even tampon companies should sponsor leagues, or teams. Or at the very least do a small event during the leagues offline. I mean the whole future market is right there! If I was still a manager I would most definitely pursue them. I'd be very impressed if they did sponsor a league.
In Korea SKT1's CEO becoming the Kespa's president played a role in other corporations investing money into teams. One of the things stated by SKT1's CEO when he came into office was, all the remaining teams will become corporate and he will do everything within his power to help club teams to become corporate, this was back when all the teams were not corporate, so Kespa did play a strong role in that regard.
So if Kespa isn't allowed to run leagues most likely everyone but the proteams will be playing starcraft, I know I will. Worst case being teams ceasing to exist, if I am a progamer Id want a crack at the new game, and if I am not doing so well, or getting little money in SC1, I'd make the transition onto SC2 and join a clan maybe. Many clans would once again resurface, just like it did with SC1 and everything will be set to zero and the foreigners will have a fair shot at the game, unlike SC1. I dunno maybe some are wishing that perhaps SC2 will be just like Warcraft3, it failed to become a media event, spectator event here. It does have the look and a feel of warcraft3, and some probably don't want SC1 to become obsolete so, who knows only time will tell. I can only say that for the betterment of e-sports I hope SC2 will become the ultimate game that fits the profile of e-sports game, so that e-sports can flourish on a global scale.
Something else Kespa can do is, it does have mega corporations as members, and also the ministry of culture funds Kespa as well, so maybe play dirty politics with their backing?
Or of course another option is yield to Blizzard's will. I don't think Blizzard appreciates Kespa running starcraft leagues without Blizzard's consent, and for Kespa I don't think they appreciate Blizzard's demands. I will continue with part two in my next blog thx for reading...
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