Blizzard Ceases Negotiations With Korean eSports Agency; Fate of Korean Pro-StarCraft Unknown

By Brian Leahy, Apr 27, 2010 2:00pm PDT According to an interview in South Korea's Yonhap News (via Daum), which was translated by forum member Waxangel, Blizzard has ceased talks with the Korean e-Sports Players Association (KeSPA).

Central to the conflict between Blizzard and KeSPA are the intellectual property rights to StarCraft and its upcoming sequel. KeSPA operates tournaments without licensing the game, which is used to generate revenue. Blizzard would like to be paid a fee as another party is profiting off of if its IP.

Blizzard had previously attempted to run its own tournaments through GOMTV invitational tournaments, but KeSPA blocked this by forbidding players from competing in any Blizzard events and being a member of KeSPA. This shut down Blizzard's sanctioned tournaments.

Blizzard CEO Mike Morhaime summed up the issue in the interview:
We've tried to talk to KeSPA for three years, but we can't get them to recognize our IP rights. Of course we think our IP rights should be respected. Starcraft II will be released soon, so we will have to look for a new partner.

KeSPA was also recently implicated in match-fixing and corruption allegations. Top players were accused of throwing matches while conspiring with gambling groups to profit. Since the initial story, new information has suggested that KeSPA was aware that some wrongdoing was occurring.

This opens the door for a new partnership for StarCraft II and could potentially end professional StarCraft in Korea as we know it if Blizzard's IP must be respected. It is clear that KeSPA does not want to license StarCraft and believes it can run tournaments without Blizzard.

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22 Threads | 84 Comments

  • I run a cybercafe and we pay the publishers a fee to license their games. Valve Software has one of the best but most expensive programs in place. We pay Valve a monthly fee and they in turn give us promotional material, a listing on their website that we are a licensed cybercafe and all valve developed games are released free to us for the number of licenses we pay for.

    What Blizzard is looking to do is make money in the same way that Valve is. I feel if Blizzard steps up to the plate and delivers the way Valve does than they deserve money. If all they are going to do is take money without giving back to the company that helped with the sales of their games then they are just being greedy.

  • Look Brian, if you're gonna do an actual news item it helps to report the actual facts so as not to start a grape vine.

    It's true that Blizzard has sighted IP rights, but that's not "central to this conflict." What's central is that Blizzard is trying to capture the broadcasting rights of SC2 in Korea, a place where esports is established. Now it takes millions of dollars and time to promote awareness, build an infrastructure, and to bring the standard up to the level of a professional spectator sport. That's what's taken place in Korea in the last 10 years and Kespa is the name of a consortium of the biggest Korean businesses that have banded together to finance these tournaments.

    KeSPA also was not implicated in match-fixing. The pro teams were infiltrated by the illegal gambling rackets, some of which is set up by a few retired pros. That's how they gained access to the active players. Kespa did to try keep it hush hush and to run its own investigation, but the news leaked.

    GOMTV is also not a Blizzard-run tournament. GOMTV is possibly a Korean partner of Blizzard's in SC2. GOMTV Invitational was a one-shot tournament GOMTV used to set up its GOMTV Classic tournament after sponsoring MSL for 4 seasons. Kespa did not "block" anything, a few of the pro teams barred its players from participating in yet another tourney in addition to 2 individuals and a team tourney already, so as to keep the quality of games high and maintain a focus.

    There's no doubt disagreement b/w Blizzard and Kespa, but your news posts makes our "home team" sound like some innocent besieged business trying etch out a living. Blizzard has benefited for years from esports, selling at least 3 of its 11 million lifetime sales in korea alone, not to mention other promotional attachments, chips, sodas, different utilities, and of course free publicity and guaranteed firehouse sales for SC2 that would otherwise cost muchos dinero.

  • Just so I have this clear:

    Blizzard is accusing the tournament org of long-term large-scale copyright infringement?

    If they're using unauthorized copies of the game (that were not paid for) for their tournaments, and charging money to participate in those tournaments, that seems fairly obviously wrong. But since enforcement of such things in SK is laughable at best, I don't see Blizzard winning this one.

    I also am forced to wonder how much this behavior factored into their decision to remove LAN play from the SC2 release...