A lot of interesting rumours have begun to fly around the internet during the past week which have begun to raise a lot of interesting questions about Starcraft II’s future, but also potentially the wider eSports community.
The announcement from Mike Morhaime of Blizzard that it is likely that the Korean channel OnGameNet (OGN) will be picking up Starcraft II in the near future is going to have a large effect on the Korean scene. The exact effect is unclear, at this stage we do not know what sort of league or who will be involved. We are fast approaching the beginning of April which is the month in which the rumour mill has stated that there will be a large influx of Brood War players into Starcraft II. If this does indeed come to pass, it is perhaps feasible that these players could form part of a separate Kespa/OGN run league that is completely distinct from the GSL. This sort of the fracturing would not be beneficial in my opinion, though this is only one possible theoretical outcome based on the small amount of information currently available.
The next piece of interesting news comes from MLG’s Sundance appearing on vVv’s “The Loser’s Bracket” show. During this appearance he made several comments that hinted at some sort of forthcoming partnership between MLG and Kespa/OGN and also mentioned the “sour taste” that MLG’s relationship with GomTV had left with him. This latter comment likely refers to the way that GomTV were happy to change the terms of the agreement in regards to Code S seeds, though this may not be the only issue. Since the MLG/GSL partnership ended GomTV have now started to partner with the IPL, as a result of this the finals of the current GSTL season will be held at IPL 4 in Las Vegas. GomTV also made the decision to schedule the GSL matches of several participants in the MLG Winter Arena at difficult times for them which caused flights to be changed at the last minute. It’s not clear if this was some sort of deliberate stab at MLG, though it’s not something that I would necessarily rule out. Sundance’s comments could simply be designed to create hype, so far nothing has come of his previous hints at having MLG events shown on ESPN in some manner, and nothing could equally come from these more recent comments.
However, the potential situation that could be emerging is a truly international battle between different eSports organisations, with the two sides consisting of MLG/OGN and IPL/GomTV going at it in both the west and the east. If this was to occur, there are some interesting dynamics to consider.
Firstly in terms of Starcraft II there is an interesting mix of new and old names on both sides. MLG has hosted Starcraft II events since 2010 and is the biggest name in terms of Starcraft II competition outside of Korea, while OGN has a decade of BW experience but little history with Starcraft II with the exception of showing some WCG games. In contrast IPL is a relative newcomer, the forthcoming IPL 4 will be only their second major event, while the GSL has been the premier Starcraft II tournament since the release of the game.
Secondly we can think about what the different companies involved can offer each other. MLG has recently received over $10million in further venture capital funding and is starting to get its product shown on cable TV in Singapore, India and soon other locations. Combined with OGN’s cable distribution in Korea and this partnership could see eSports being more available on TVs around the world than ever before, and the addition of MLG programming to OGN’s lineup could be a serious boost to Starcraft II’s popularity in Korea. On the other side, IPL have a lot of money behind them as a result of being part of IGN, which also provides them with a great web platform to promote their content. This, coupled with the GSL’s strong existing brand as the the premier Starcraft II tournament in the world, would make this second partnership a more than worthy challenger for the potential MLG/OGN team.
The final thing to consider is the growing importance of the MOBA(ARTS) genre in eSports. While DOTA has had a strong following for years, particularly in China, it’s only recently that League of Legends has taken off as the number one watched game in the world. This muddies the waters in terms of the potential world wide eSports partnerships that I’ve mentioned so far due to a couple of reasons. Firstly, League of Legends is a part of the IPL as well as now appearing in Korea on OGN. Secondly MLG currently does not have a MOBA game as part of its line up, though Sundance has been talking about the genre a bit recently. He’s also mentioned/hinted at being in contact with Valve about both Dota 2 and CS:GO. If MLG weren’t seriously considering going with Dota 2 then they would have jumped onto the LoL bandwagon by now, the huge views it would generate would surely be a great boost for their revenues; which may not be too strong right now on the basis of the sudden jump to PPV for the Arena and the recent burst of additional funding they have received. There is therefore the potential for a slightly weird situation in which the competing titles of Dota 2/League of Legends form a core part of the broadcasting line up of an MLG/OGN partnership. Again however, as with everything else in this article, this is all speculation on what could happen based on the limited information currently available.
Despite the current lack of concrete facts, the small details that are being released right now have me fascinated as to what is going to happen in the next few months. It really feels like something big could be on the horizon, though the exact nature of what is coming is unclear at this point. I’d love to hear other people’s thoughts on the matter, please post below if you have any comments!