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Official Update From Blizzard, 29 June 2010:

Note that every other prediction from this rumor about the Korean Air-Blizzard event was dead-wrong.

If you’re wondering what the facts are — we will be addressing StarCraft II tournament functionality in a post launch patch to the game, soon after ship. This patch will include features to address the needs of location-based pro tournaments, but we have not discussed any specifics about tournament support beyond that.

Original post:

Even with the StarCraft 2 Beta down until further notice, the eSports arena is heating up. Rumors and teasers mentioning of a massive event scheduled to take place on June 24 have been released, and it appears that the event is not only meant to generate hype.
Big thanks goes to the TL and SCL communities for posting translations of the original material, which was released via PlayXP and sc2.178.com.

The event will take place in South Korea on June 24

June 24 11:00~14:00
Gimpo Airport Korean Air Hangar

This event will run from June 24, from 11:00am until 2:00pm at the Korean Air Hangar, with the attendance of Blizzard HQ executives, national VIPs of the industry, reporters, and community members.

It was asked if the general public could participate, but unfortunately the event is planned to be invitation-only.

It is expected that all the details of StarCraft II’s release will be made public here.

Following Blizzard’s lockdown of the StarCraft franchise, many were expecting a major announcement to come out of Korea regarding the future of major league StarCraft competition, one that is approved by Blizzard. The event is planned to have Blizzard executives in attendance, so this just might be what fans and progamers worldwide have been waiting for.

1. There will be an upcoming “Ongame Net Starcraft 2 League,” or OSL2.
2. The sponsor of the first one will be Korean Air.
3. The first OS2L will have preliminaries all over the world and then the players will be gathered in Seoul for the Ro16.
4. There will be a “Starcraft 2 Professional Edition” that will only be provided to tournament organizers, which will include LAN functionality. Only with a special account + password that gets activated will it work. Blizzard staff will be present at tournaments to assist. Apparently, this news was first told to the organizers of the Stars War tournament after it had ended.

While the actual GomTV/OSL arrangement is not clear or fully confirmed yet, it is reasonable to assume that GomTV has found a way to work with one of the scene’s largest and most established operators. However, the most interesting part of this story is the StarCraft 2 Professional Edition, which is said to include LAN functionality.

LAN support, or the the lack of it, has been a major issue throughout StarCraft 2’s development. The gaming community did not approve of Blizzard’s decision to not support gameplay over local networks, and many fans have vowed to abstain from StarCraft 2 as long as it does not support this type of connection. It will be interesting to see if Blizzard actually does launch this “StarCraft 2 Professional Edition” and if the requirements for acquiring it will be made standard and public.

Update: Note that every other prediction from this rumor about the Korean Air-Blizzard event was dead-wrong.

In our new feature, the Replay Roundup, we’ll gather the best StarCraft 2 videos from all over the scene and present them here for your viewing pleasure. The replays chosen will feature extreme plays, creative use of units, excellent execution of builds and strategies, and, most importantly – be very entertaining!

Our first roundup features two games played by IdrA, the notorious Zerg player, and two by TheLittleOne (TLO) – the latest addition to the elite Team Liquid – who plays Random. IdrA is an American player currently living in Korea, playing with Korean pro-graming team CJ Entus, who is known for his extreme macro-oriented play – choosing to focus on maximizing his economy and taking over the map with the purpose of overwhelming his opponent with the Zerg swarm. TLO, a German whose creativity has already earned him a fan club, is a master of unorthodox play.

In the first game, IdrA goes up against TLO, in a match played for the Altitude TL Invitational tournament on Lost Temple.

IdrA attempts to play a huge macro game against TLO’s ever changing Terran play. Great harassment in this non stop game that does not end until all expansions are taken!

The second game shows WhiteRA, a Ukrainian Protoss player, versus IdrA on Metalopolis from the HDH finals. In the previous HDH round, IdrA beat another Protoss player, NonY, on the same map with the same starting positions. Here is the second part of the video, where the action begins:

The game starts out as a replica of the previous one, where IdrA managed to completely overwhelm NonY by macroing up and negating all of NonY’s attempts to expand or move out with his force. Starting in the exact same positions as that game, WhiteRa decides to allow IdrA to macro-up at the beginning, leading to a similar game of huge army-size clashes. Will WhiteRa succeed where NonY had failed?

The next game features TheLittleOne versus NonY on Desert Oasis. This is game four of their 3rd and 4th place matches on the HDH Invitational tournament, after TLO lost to WhireRa and NonY lost to IdrA.

TLO goes up as Zerg against NonY’s Protoss in a fast-paced game showing extreme skill by both players. Excellent unit control, great timings, and a crazy use of one specific unit… !

The last game for today is from the Europe versus Asia tournament. HasuObs versus DayFly on Metalopolis, Terran and Protoss.

The Terran player opens with one Barracks, one Factory, and one Starport, showcasing what this versatile build can do. The game is accompanied by excellent commentary provided by Day[9], an amazing player on his own account and one of the best StarCraft commentators. Worth a watch!

After a long (and occasionally controversial) series of events, announcements and actions, this chapter of Blizzard’s Korean eSports saga appears to have reached a conclusion: GomTV is coming out on top with all other Korean eSports organizations receiving a sort of a grace period to adjust to the new reality until August 2010, the end of the current pro-gaming season.

According to multiple sources, most importantly TL’s detailed translation of the Korean news pieces, GomTV will have exclusive rights to operate and broadcast all Blizzard games in Korea. On the flip side, all other current operators, many of which have been managing leagues and TV broadcasts for almost a decade – such as KeSPA(Korean eSports Player Association), OnGameNet and MBCGame (Korean television channels) – are no longer authorized to handle Blizzard titles.

Mike Morhaim

Mike Morhaime, Blizzard’s CEO, has commented on the Korean situation multiple times in the past. Mike has now released an open letter to the Korean eSports community, explaining the reasoning behind the partnership, as well as its terms and meaning to the community. Here are some highlights from the letter:

In 2007, we were shocked and disappointed to learn that KeSPA had illegally sold the broadcasting rights for Starcraft tournaments without our consent. With this clear violation of our intellectual property rights, we were forced to become more actively involved in the situation and make our voice be heard. Even so, we began talks with KeSPA in good faith so we could find a way to protect our intellectual property rights as well as help e-Sports to grow further.

2007 also happens to be the year that StarCraft 2 was announced in. Selling broadcasting rights to a game KeSPA doesn’t own obviously angered some people over at Blizzard.

For the following three years, we tried very hard to have negotiations where we could correct a skewed situation and reach mutual understanding. However, during this process, what we learned was that KeSPA did not recognize our intellectual property rights, and that our suggestions even up to this day, echoed unheard while KeSPA offered no solutions of their own.

This three year period, which we have recently covered, had only one predictable outcome, and it comes as no surprise to fans who have followed Blizzard’s very consistent line of statements.

With the release of “Starcraft II: Wings of Liberty” approaching, we decided we could not delay any further in finding a trustworthy partner who respected our intellectual property rights, and decided it was time to find a new way altogether.

Our best wishes and congratulations go to GomTV for securing such a valuable and exclusive partnership. Hopefully, it will keep eSports clean, increase its popularity and broadcast it free for fans to enjoy worldwide.

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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