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Blizzard Drops KeSPA, Seizes Control of StarCraft 2’s Future

Some things are bound to happen. Considering the cataclysmic events that have recently hit the Korean StarCraft scene, it doesn’t come as much of a surprise that Blizzard has officially decided to cease their negotiations and relations with KeSPA – the Korean eSports Players Association.

Taking things public, Blizzard CEO Mike Morhaime discussed the issues with Yonhap News during their visit to Blizzard’s HQ, and a kind soul over at the TL forums translated a significant portion of the articles for the community. It all boils down to the following statements – and coming from Blizzard’s #1, it likely means that this is the company’s final stance on the issue.

“We’ve been negotiating with the association about intellectual property rights for the last three years, and we’ve made no progress at all”

“….We’re going to stop negotiating with them and look for a new partner”

“…Blizzard obviously has the IP rights to the Starcraft series, but those rights aren’t being respected, and we can’t keep having these fruitless negotiations with the release of Starcraft II at hand”

Over the course of StarCraft 2’s development, a big portion of which happened in the public eye since its unveiling during the World Wide Invitational in May 2007, Blizzard has made multiple statements about its eSports ambitions. Notice how this time span overlaps exactly with the three-year negotiation period Mike Morhaime mentioned above.

1) In early 2008, Blizzard RTS Community Managers released a Q&A that included an answer specifically stating the sort of role Blizzard’s eSports team is gearing up to play in their upcoming flagship RTS title:

the planning and operation of Blizzard tournaments around the world in places such as Asia, Europe and the United States. They also provide third-party support for the eSports leagues that host both online and live events using Blizzard titles.

Additionally, they help provide balance feedback to our development teams based on interaction with professional gamers and response from the eSports community. They will have an integral role in promoting StarCraft II as an eSports as they have done for the previous Blizzard titles.

To sum it up, Blizzard’s eSport’s team expects to handle the following aspects of competitive StarCraft 2 gaming:

  • The planning and operation of StarCraft 2 tournaments around the globe.
  • Support for league managing – both online and live competitive events.
  • The active promotion of StarCraft 2 as an eSport.

2) While the first statement hadn’t mentioned Korea, during BlizzCon 2008, Blizzard representatives specifically expressed their commitment to the highly-developed Korean StarCraft gaming scene.

We know about the popularity in Korea. Because Koreans love competitive gaming we’re trying to make this an e-Sport game. Just revealing the game in Seoul should tell you how much we love the Korean market.

…the e-Sports department is doing all that they can to create the best multiplayer experience. This can change depending on the players’ opinions, however. On a side note we’re preparing a WC3 tournament and are expecting to host similar leagues for SC2.

A Massive Televised StarCraft Event

3) Early 2009, in Q&A #50, the Chat with the Devs section emphasizes StarCraft 2’s inherent eSports oriented design and replay features:

StarCraft II from its conception has been designed to be an eSport and one of the backbone features to helping players learn more about their own gameplay as well as their opponents is through replays. In our chat with Dustin this week, he highlighted various features that will be available to players while viewing replays. These features are designed both to help players improve in StarCraft II as well as serve as a platform of statistics for eSports commentary.

4) April 2009, Blizzard re-iterates the unchanged goals of the eSports team:

The role of our eSports Team is to operate tournaments and competitive events for Blizzard games.  We will release more information on our plans for StarCraft II tournaments, both official and third-party, as we get closer to the launch of the game.

5) July 2009, Dustin Browder talks about Blizzard’s intentions to push for the mainstream adoption of eSports and their plans to promote public broadcasts – televised StarCraft 2 matches.

6) Towards the end of 2009, the message grows even clearer, as Bob Colayco, Blizzard’s PR Manager for StarCraft 2, provides the following answer during an interview:

You know, we have an E-Sports team for a reason and I think you’re going to see some 3rd party stuff as well, but we definitely like to get hands on with our own things. If you look at what we’ve done with WoW Arena, we do have the tournament realms and we do regional finals that we run and we sponsor.

By this time, just a few months before the beta, Mr. Colayco is almost certainly aware of the situation with KeSPA, the failing negotiations and the inevitability of the clash that is due to occur when the StarCraft 2 beta goes live and public in Korea.

The aforementioned six public statements are, undoubtedly, just the the tip of the iceberg; a drop in a pool of statements and actions Blizzard took to make sure the message is clear: Blizzard made StarCraft 2. The future of StarCraft 2 belongs to Blizzard.

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