Starcraft – The Charity (Korea)
The issue of Starcraft 2 (or e-sports but lets focus on SC2) being a charity has come up a lot recently with the downward spiral that its presumably in. There are a large number of things to blame for it but we won’t go directly into that. Today I am going to address an issue with Korea specifically that fits under the illusion category that is specific to this blog as well as addresses the act of expecting it to be a charity. That is that “as long as we are pro gamers we will get paid”.
To try to get you into my head and thought process I am going to take you back to a time when things were good. Personally my fondest memory of Korean SC2 was GSL Season 3. When Moonglade and I made the trek to Korea, him to play and me to check things out. Code A Quals was packed to the rafts, there were 6-8 foreigners trying out and the buzz was great. GSL was hosting shows on non game days (much like regular sports do) and viewership most likely was close to its peak at this time.
We all remember watching the matches, NESTEA, SC, MVP, MC etc. all duking it out for the championship. Times were good and the inflow of money was just before its peak. Korea had made it, Starcraft 2 was on the world stage.
It appears that multiple sponsorship of the event itself was not occurring. I do not blame GOM at all for this, the Korean business environment and set up is tipped heavily in the KESPA sides favor just by the sheer number of businesses attached to its core. (With a tiny bit of research of companies such as CJ you will see what I mean). They required a non-korean business development team to market the awesome product they had abroad.
At the same time, teams were unable to secure good Sponsorship’s, Viewership numbers of GOMTV were not being released to the team and were not able to be used to obtain sponsorship. They could have been the tipping point on a lot of deals but we will never know.
Players demands increased significantly due to foreign gamer inflation. Personally I feel that this is a very important part of what has gone wrong in Korea. False rumors of mega salaries to sub par gamers caused better gamers to start pushing for more money but at the same time they did not want to do what it takes to be worth that extra money because they were ‘champions’. (I remember back to when a code B player asked me for 6k a month + travel and then said thats what XYZ foreigner was getting, when they weren’t, I said if you can do X , Y and Z and get your fanbase to Q they could have it. They asked why they should do that when they are better than the other player).
Finally KESPA preventing participation of proleague from ESF teams was one of the nails in the coffin. The viewership would have boomed for that season of proleague because of the hype, the ‘elephant in the room’ and the fan favorites all molding into one enormous bang. Instead we saw arrogance from the organisation and lack of vision that essentially split an already small community in half.
Whats this got to do with Starcraft 2 being a charity you are asking?
Well my dear friend Choya recently said that WCS is killing or has killed Korean SC2. Which is false in my opinion. Without WCS Korea would most likely have very little money or pretty much nothing for Starcraft 2. They are saying this is the last season of proleague so you can scratch that from the SC2 books, OSL viewership was less than Destiny’s (slight exaggeration) and would have been dumb to continue on, leaving GSL the one which was not marketed properly when it was in the boom. WCS injected clean money into the scene when it needed it most (Korea). Unfortunately, the Korean gamers are not used to money leaving their game (as with brood war) and are expecting someone to foot the bill. Brood war was of a different time. There was almost nothing competing against it and a bunch of the biggest group of companies in Asia decided to put together a league of which they fully controlled. The money didn’t go away because there was no where for it to go. Nowadays there are plenty of options on where to spend your companies money and Starcraft 2 right now in Korea would be at the bottom of the list. Yet, people are still expecting to get paid because they do their 8-10 hours of game time and show up to their matches. This…. is charity.
Why the bottom of the list Josh? Starcraft is the hardest game and has the highest skill ceiling!!
No company cares what Starcraft 2 is. All they care about is what it can do for them. And right now it can do very little. The Korean players have made very little effort to make themselves a product and they do not try overly hard to reach out to their fan base. (Of course there are exceptions like MC for example, but he is paid well for his work so its case and point).
League of legends in Korea have at least one thing going for them and that is consistent stable viewership. They have the KESPA backing (access to the majority of significant companies in Korea as well as professional training) and then they have RIOT supporting them as well. The stability is good and its being utilized better (even though I am certainly not a fan). The numbers alone are enough for a good sales person to walk into a meeting room and get the marketing execs attention, it would be up to their talent to seal the deal.
How can we fix it?
Some would argue its beyond repair but I don’t believe it is. WCS is holding up the ceiling at the moment and its up to teams and organisations to work around that. GOMTV needs to bring back its variety shows and a subscription model for them. Teams need to some how obtain training to grow their fan base (yes it is still possible) and then GOMTV can use some of the subscriber money to pay appearance fees to popular players for the shows. Ultimately they need to cater to the foreign audience directly and have the Korean side as the secondary. After that they will need to find a decent agency abroad to find them advertising and sponsorship and keep their product fresh.
They also should probably wait a year or two before giving in to any demands for higher wages as this is a common mistake in the e-sports industry in general. (Of course if someone is working for free they should get paid if this is successful. But those on livable wages should probably not see an increase for 12-24 months).
As viewers, we should not expect to flip the bill of an organisation or team (this means giving them money, not purchasing a product). They need to put on a show professionally, grab our attention, bring us in and sell to us. If they cannot do the simple parts of business they should probably take a step back from whatever they are doing and not spend money that they inevitably will not have.
Finally it would be up to the community to understand that nothing will or should be forever free but the product must be worth paying for and priced correctly.
I have decided to leave a message after all my blogs that will be below the line that is shown above for the reason of addressing certain things.
Firstly, Choya is an awesome person and I always wish him all the best. My personal and social side never mixes with my business side so harshness or bluntness could create an image that I am not trying to portray. GOMTV has done an awesome job in the past with their events. I still watch occasionally but the production has become some what stale (even with a new studio). I really like the people who are there, Mr Chae is one of the greatest people I have met in e-Sports and again I mean no ill will towards them by writing this blog. I am most certain that GOMTV would be able to highlight some of my own mistakes as well and would not hold it against them.
Finally I want to say that I am only addressing WCS Korea. My opinion of the WCS tournaments in other regions is entirely different so we should not confuse them with Korea.
Thanks for reading.
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