On April 3, Blizzard announced that it would host a championship for the strategy RPG Starcraft 2. The announcement was made at a press event for the StarCraft II World Championship Series (WCS) in Seoul, Korea.
“We are here today to announce a massive partnership that unifies StarCraft II and eSports under one global system, reducing schedule conflicts of major international events and creating a global ranking system that will allow us to determine who the top players in the world are at any point of time,” said Mike Morhaime, Blizzard CEO. “The growth of the ecosystem has accelerated for the past couple of years, all of us (Blizzard and partners) felt that it was important to work collaboratively to adapt to the changing environment. From now on the disparate eSports, or electronics sports, leagues played in Korea, Europe and U.S. will come under the new system,” he said.
What this really means
Until now, private entities have been using StarCraft and StarCraft 2 to host gaming tournaments and competitions for both professionals and amateurs. In South Korea, a government-backed initiative, the Korean eSports Association, has been in charge of commercial operations of professional video-gaming. Blizzard has not been actively involved in the spectator-sports aspect of its games, which was not so much of a problem in the early years, but in the past decade, the industry of professional gaming has truly grown and now it wants in on the action, although how much of that action is related to financial benefits is yet to be seen. Korea is inarguably the most fertile breeding ground for gaming as a spectator sport, where it is a national pastime with viewership at par with athletic sports.
It will be interesting to see how other companies whose games are used in professional and amateur gaming competitions respond to Blizzard’s move. One of the major contributors of the rapid growth of videogames as a spectator sport has been the fact that coordinators of such events did not have to play royalty fees to the game publishers. Even at a smaller scale, companies are able to host one-on-one or small team games and televise them with professional commentators without having to pay Blizzard. Even if Blizzard does not require these entities to pay royalties, its involvement may lead to less creativity of the growth of esports as an industry in exchange for more structure.
Here is a link to the talk:
More details of the deal itself are reported by The Korea Times.