Why Blizzard invited the world's best StarCraft: Brood War players to Blizzcon 2011
But why were they there? Sites like Teamliquid swirled with rumours prior to the event: they were there to perform show matches, playing 1998's Brood War on the big screen to foreign fans. They were there to test out the next StarCraft II expansion, Heart of the Swarm. They were there to mark their transition from professional Brood War – still the majority esports share in Korean viewing schedules – to StarCraft II. But Blizzcon came and went, and the four players were absent from headlines outside of citizen-papparazzi snaps and videos. Why were they there, flown out to Anaheim from their Korean home? The answer is simpler than you might expect. Read on to find out why.
They were there to see how StarCraft II – and esports in general – is consumed in the west. Confirmed by a Blizzard representative, Jaedong, Bisu, Fantasy and Jangbi (along with a representative from the Korean e-Sports Association that runs the league they play in) sat in on the StarCraft II tournaments taking place at the show – the GSL finals and the Blizzcon Invitational - to see first-hand the changes that have taken place in international pro-gaming during 2011, after hearing of a widening fan-base in the west. The players were reportedly blown away by the noise and spectacle of the events.
The crowd for Blizzcon's GSL finals was humongous, dwarfing the groups found at the tournament's regular season Code S and A games. They even outstripped previous finals – not only in size, but also in noise. Korean crowds are, by all accounts, more reserved and respectful. Exposing players raised on those experiences to the full-force of an American sports crowd must've been an impressive experience.
The Blizzcon GSL finals may become something of a turning point for esports. Not only was the event orders of magnitude larger than Korean GSL finals, but according to veteran esportsers like Major League Gaming's Slasher, the games played between SlayerS`MMA and IMMVP were watched by the largest crowd ever seen in North American esports. The cheer for the winning player (spoiler-free for you VOD-watchers) was so loud from the front row that I felt the floor of the hall shaking under my feet.
The reasoning behind Jaedong and co's visit might disappoint those hoping for an imminent switch of the world's best macro/micro masters to a more recent game, but contractual wrangles are likely to hold a potential shift up. The four players were being chaperoned by a KeSPA representative (as I ascertained by peeking at a branded clipboard during a fortuitous lift ride with them during the show). GomTV (the creators of the GSL) still hold exclusive rights to broadcast StarCraft II in South Korea: meaning that there would either need to be a shift in that thinking to allow KeSPA to show SCII; or they would lose the rights to some of the best players ever seen.
Time will tell what the visit means for esports. But from an outside perspective, the players couldn't have picked a better event to attend. The games in both the GSL finals and the Blizzcon Invitational were of a ridiculously high standard, and the crowd heaped so much audible love onto the stage that GSL co-casters Artosis and Tasteless cracked their steely nerd-baller exteriors and had tears in their eyes.
We'll be contacting both Blizzard and KeSPA to get a response to this information, and will let you know if there is any more information.