Report: Corruption in Korean StarCraft Pro Scene

By Brian Leahy, Apr 13, 2010 1:40pm PDT [Update: 4/21/2010 - 12:15 PM] Added Blizzard statement.

[Original Story] Reports are sweeping across South Korea alleging that multiple parties and players are involved in gambling and game-rigging within the country's popular and lucrative eSports scene for Blizzard's real-time strategy game StarCraft: Brood War.

Using Internet translation and this excellent thread on StarCraft community site TeamLiquid.net, the details are clear. When you consider that StarCraft is a national sport in South Korea, the implications of this grow larger. One report likens the corruption to the 1919 Black Sox World Series scandal in Major League Baseball.

The allegations include pro-gamers leaking closely guarded replay files, which are kept in-house by both teams to study mistakes and strategies. Additionally, some have been accused of intentionally losing matches and conspiring with illegal gambling groups.

The community is speculating that many "A-List" players could be implicated, including Ma Jae Yoon (Savior), one of the most successful players of all time. Reports also claim that teams with accused players are cutting those involved. Serious offenders may be forced to retire.

This has far-reaching implications, as Blizzard has been fighting with the ruling body for eSports in Korea, KeSPA, over the eventual release of StarCraft II. Blizzard would love to be directly involved in any SCII pro-gaming in Korea, but that would weaken KeSPA's position. KeSPA would love to keep the pros in StarCraft: Brood War and continue to make money without Blizzard.

Blizzard had attempted to make in-roads into the Korean scene through the GOMTV leagues, but KeSPA stepped in and would not allow players to play in its own leagues or tournaments and un-sanctioned league's and tournaments, effectively killing the effort. Blizzard's argument is that it owns the game that is being played. KeSPA believes that StarCraft's success as a sport is due to its own work. Copyright law also gets sticky as Blizzard is an American company.

This scandal could, however, weaken KeSPA's position. If that is the case, Blizzard might be able to step in and coax the eSports community in Korea into transitioning to StarCraft II.

[Update: 4/21/2010 - 12:15 PM] Blizzard has released a statement on the issue:

We've always taken an aggressive stance against cheating in Blizzard Entertainment games. We have anti-cheating technology in Battle.net and World of Warcraft, which we review and update regularly. We also take corrective action -- up to and including banning accounts -- to promote legitimate play.

However, it's important to note that based on what we've read, the situation you mentioned pertains to activity between third-party individuals and organizations, and falls outside of anything related to events organized or supported by Blizzard Entertainment, or secure play on Battle.net.

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