They need an international sports governing body. This is a good step to make Starcraft eSports not so Korean-centric. Even if they are the best, it is better for the industry to have them competing around the world like Tennis pros.
Q&A: Sundance DiGiovanni talks about Major League Gaming's big deal with the Korean eSports Association and what it means for the future of competitive StarCraft II play.
Major League Gaming and Korea's largest competitive gaming entity, the Korean eSports Association (KeSPA), have announced an exclusive multi-year partnership that will attempt to bridge the Western and Korean eSports worlds more than ever before. The collaboration will see current KeSPA players such as Young Ho "Flash" Lee, Jae Dong "Jaedong" Lee, Taek Yong "Bisu" Kim, Byung Goo "Stork" Song, and others compete at MLG events. The partnership will begin at the MLG Spring Championships in Anaheim on Saturday, June 9 at 9 p.m. PDT in a Wings of Liberty exhibition tournament, with players selected from the top KeSPA teams.
OnGameNet (OGN) also released details on its SK Planet ProLeague Season 2, its debut StarCraft 2 event, which will also feature StarCraft: Brood War. Players must play both SC2 and BW, where the first three sets are Brood War, the next three sets are StarCraft 2, and the final Ace match is also StarCraft 2. Players can play BW and SC2 with different races, as Sung Eun "firebathero" Lee (Terran to Protoss) and Yoon Hwan "Calm" Kim (Zerg to Terran) already choosing to do so. The first matches start on May 20 with English commentary and streaming info to be announced, with the season ending August 26 and the playoffs starting on September 1.
GameSpot recently spoke with MLG CEO Sundance DiGiovanni regarding the partnership, and how it will affect things going forward.
GS: What made you go to KeSPA to make this all happen?
SD: There's been a lot of growth within the [competitive gaming] scene, not just MLG but all the organizations I think are seeing growth. Maybe some at a greater rate than others, but [it's] only in terms of opportunistic thinking and being able to expand when you're talking about a global presence. There are two or three things that are left right so this is one, China is one, but this one is really relevant because a lot of the history around one of our most popular games [StarCraft II] is locked up in South Korea with KeSPA. There are legendary players, there's a history there, but there's a certain way of doing things that we think has been lacking to a degree. People like yourself saying, "Yeah it's just a matter of time before they come over, things are going to change." And there's truth to that. So that barrier is now taken care of.
"They are a very serious organization in the way they operate, and that's gotten misinterpreted at times."--DiGiovanni, on KeSPA's reputation.
We're excited. Blizzard has been really supportive of this and they were eager to see it happen. It's crazy to think that the last time we were over there we were meeting with GomTV StarLeague (GSL) and now it's shifted to KeSPA, but we're very happy and I think one of the things we're also going to try do is to try and focus on winning some of the people who were the foreign players in the Western community, and the fans of all this, to understand a little more of the history of KeSPA. Because I think that it's misunderstood to a degree. I mean, they are a very serious organization in the way they operate, and that's gotten misinterpreted at times. There are other times when they've done things that have obviously not been as well received by the community as they may have liked, but that's shifted now, because it's global now. They own a very important part of this but we bring a very important part as well. It's a dynamic partnership in that regard. We're going to work on softening their image to the Western fans.
GS: So one of the biggest questions here regarding the new partnership is the announced exclusivity between yourselves and KeSPA and what this means going forward. What actions are we to see from this?
SD: What this means is that outside of Korea, we're the official partner for KeSPA. We're the tournament KeSPA players are allowed to play at the moment, by letter of the agreement. Our plan is to work with some of the partners that we have to bring those players there as well. I'm going to try my best to arrange something with DreamHack as we have a strong relationship with them. We're going to talk to the [Electronic Sports League's] Intel Extreme Masters (IEM) about working with them. Those are the two groups that I've been in contact with and have been thinking about. It could go deeper, but the point of this is that KeSPA takes this very seriously and they want to align with like-minded people.
They've made their choice and they've given us a bit of a directive in terms of how they want to handle it inside of Korea and we're gonna let them do that. We're happy to partner with them, we're happy to have broadcast outlet capabilities within South Korea for MLG content as well. We're going to go and run with it out here. With [GameSpot parent] CBS Interactive being a partner on the distribution side, we think we can do some pretty big things. The online commentary and everything else popped up of course around exclusivity, but without exclusivity there's no leverage. The point of leverage is that we need to be able to monetize this. If we get over-saturation with this next level, that's not going to be good for anybody. What we're doing is we're creating a partnership not for what exists today, but for what is going to exist next year, the year after that, and the year after that.
In terms of the exclusivity part of it, I don't say this to come off as disrespectful but in their eyes they are the only ones over there. It's Korea and it's KeSPA. That's it. I'm not gonna lie and tell you I was running in there hoping I was going to do a non-exclusive deal because what sense does that make? You saw what that got me last time. It got me Naniwa not getting what he had earned, and I'm not going to do that again. From an operator standpoint, you could grab anyone from the other organizations and they all would have said they'd sign an exclusive deal too.