The Arrival of KeSPA
The Mayan prophecies were true: 2012 is the end. At least it may feel that way if you’re a follower of the Korean Broodwar scene which seems to have finally caved in amid news that KeSPA and Pro League expect to phase the game out completely in favour of Starcraft 2 by the end of the year.
The landscape of Korean e-sports is significantly more developed than the rest of the world but with development comes complications and these have certainly impacted upon the growth of Starcraft 2 in the country. A scary thought when you consider that the nation already houses an overwhelming percentage of the truly world class players. Having benefitted from a boom in popularity many years ago the Korean e-sports scene has managed to reach an enviable position overseen by a government approved organising body known as KeSPA, the Korea e-Sports Association.
Whilst this has granted South Korean gaming leagues and teams a horde of fans and a level of professionalism beyond what any Western organisations can hope for it has also proven problematic for Starcraft 2 enthusiasts’ hopes for full strength Korean participation in the game. Simply put, despite the game’s popularity worldwide there has been little reason for the already self-sufficient Korean Broodwar machine to pay much attention to Starcraft 2. Well, the times they are a changin’ and after an up and down past year for Broodwar, with record viewing figures at the same time as teams shut down, it seems that it may finally be time to wheel out the old timer and bring in the sexy younger model.
It’s been common knowledge for a while now that Broodwar teams had begun practicing Starcraft 2 and taking the game seriously and today a swathe of official announcements have been made to confirm what many fans suspected. According to articles posted on the Korean site thisisgame, kindly translated by the users of Team Liquid, head figures of Blizzard, Gretech (GOM), OGN and KeSPA met today with the managers of Starcraft 2 and Broodwar teams. KeSPA and Blizzard placed past differences aside and KeSPA have now officially obtained a license to launch a team league for Starcraft 2, with OGN (a premier Korean league) also obtaining a license to launch an individual league. Starcraft 2 is now an officially recognised pro game of KeSPA.
This will not impact on GOM’s current agreement with Blizzard and they will retain the GSL and GSTL meaning that there will be a total of 4 key leagues running in Korea. All of the major parties involved have agreed to work together and although it is presently unclear quite how it has been made clear that connections will be maintained between existing Starcraft 2 players, those changing from Broodwar and their respective teams and leagues. It seems that neither side want to see the Korean Starcraft 2 scene divided in two.
In further news OGN revealed that their inaugural Starcraft 2 league will be opening in July. An exact schedule has not yet been reached beyond this and more details will be coming over the following weeks. Also according to a translation of thisisgame done by Team Liquid members, OGN will still be continuing with Broodwar for at least a short period of time although the future of the game certainly seems bleaker than it once did.
On their Broodwar league Hyung-Jun Hwang, an OGN representative, stated that:
That there is an axe looming over the head of Broodwar seems even clearer when KeSPA’s statements regarding the future of Pro League are taken into account. By Pro League Season 3, currently scheduled for October of this year, KeSPA expect to have completely phased out Broodwar from their schedule.
The President of KeSPA had this to say:
It is true that we are talking about the full transition into SC2 tournament from season 3, and unless there are problems we expect this to happen.
When we make a full transition to Starcraft 2 league all pre-existing BW players will be able to continue their career as a pro gamers playing Starcraft 2. We are still talking with Gretech about players who are participating in GSL and GSTL, we hope to reveal more details before the full transition into Starcraft 2.
The already dominant Korean scene appears to be set for a major boost and many doomsayers have put forward predictions that should the titans of Broodwar such as Flash and Bisu take Starcraft 2 seriously then the current topflight of players will be quickly replaced. What’s certain is that this is set to be another interesting year for Starcraft 2. Whether or not the foreign scene can weather the incoming storm is an open question at the moment but with KeSPA promising full support for its players in international competition we can say at least that gaming leagues worldwide will be benefitting from the influx of new talent.