It looks like the days of the Aeon of Strife for StarCraft II in Korea is over. A press conference held by representatives from Blizzard Entertainment, the Korean e-Sports Association, OnGameNetwork and Gretech (better known as GOMtv) formally announced a new partnership in distributing StarCraft II across Korea. Many popular professional Brood War and StarCraft II players, including Flash, Boxer, MarineKingPrime, Bisu, and Nestea, were present at the conference as well.
The news was delivered immediately: StarCraft II is now a KeSPA-recognized game and so the organization, and OGN, have also received licenses to run tournaments and broadcast the game along with GOMtv, who previously held exclusive rights to run and broadcast StarCraft II in Korea. Consequently, the next OGN Proleague and Starleague will incorporate StarCraft II alongside their usual Brood War offerings.
KeSPA and OGN have also said that they will be working closely with GOMtv to unite all the teams and players into these leagues. OGN estimates that the StarCraft II league will begin in early July while Brood War pros will start playing StarCraft II in the third week of May, when the hybridized Proleague will commence.
This is the first step to ending the years-old conflict over StarCraft broadcasting on Korea. It started when, in the late 2000′s, KeSPA began trying to sell its StarCraft broadcasting rights to a third party. This caught Blizzard’s attention as they felt that it was a violation of their IP. Up until then, Blizzard had not done anything to support or detriment the StarCraft professional scene.
KeSPA is the ruling body of competitive gaming in Korea and is comprised of some of the most powerful corporations in the country. It has final say over what games are played in a professional scene, which events can be held and even grant professional gaming licenses to players. KeSPA is also responsible for financing many of the teams and tournaments held under its control. Naturally, KeSPA wouldn’t buckle under pressure from Blizzard easily. And they didn’t.
So in 2010, Blizzard granted exclusive broadcasting rights to the then-upcoming StarCraft II to GOMtv, a smaller third party television and video player service. GOMtv had previously attempted to make a name for themselves by hosting Brood War tournaments outside of KeSPA sanctions but the events quickly buckled as KeSPA-supported teams pulled out, likely due to pressure from KeSPA. With the exclusive rights to broadcasting StarCraft II and its unparalleled success as an esport internationally, it was only a matter of time before this agreement between all companies would be reached.
OGN has long been the official TV broadcasting corporation for KeSPA games and has held the Proleagues and Starleagues, the top team and individual player tournaments respectively, for years. Since GOMtv had the exclusive rights, the GOMtv Starleague (GSL) and GOMtv Team Starleague (GSTL) tournaments have been the premiere StarCraft 2 tournaments. How these will merge together is unknown for now.
Of course, the international scene is something that KeSPA is inexperienced with. While Brood War tournaments and leagues have largely been confined to Korea outside of the World Cyber Games, which has effectively ceased to exist in recent years, StarCraft 2 has more international tournaments and events than Korean ones.
Legendary esports figure Boxer actually asked KeSPA about how the organization was planning to promote the game internationally after a history of only limiting its influence inside of South Korea. KeSPA confirmed that they are in talks with international teams and that KeSPA players will attend international tournaments. There will naturally be plenty to work out, including how the essentially freerange international scene interacts with the regulated KeSPA.
Interestingly, the final goal is to phase out Brood War entirely within a year. Many Koreans are upset by this with some even vowing to switch over the League of Legends in spite. The Brood War pros seem excited, though. Either way, 2012 will be an exciting year for StarCraft II fans.