Blizzard intends to find a new e-sports partner in South Korea, according to a recent interview with a top Blizzard executive. In an interview with Korean newspaper Yonhap News, Blizzard CEO Mike Morhaime said that the company is moving in a new direction – which is apparently away from KeSPA, who currently handles StarCraft competitions in the region. KeSPA (aka the Korean e-Sports Association) has been at odds with Blizzard over what boils down to money. Blizzard says that the company doesn’t respect its IP rights and has refused to talk to them for 3 years.
KeSPA is one of the largest e-sports associations in South Korea and supports some of the most popular professional StarCraft teams in the country. It also has the ear of the government, who recently gave StarCraft II, a mature rating of 18+. This seemed to be a direct response to Blizzard’s attitude towards KeSPA and the removal of LAN support in StarCraft II, which ultimately gives Blizzard more control over online play via Battle.net – the only way you can play the game multiplayer.
Blizzard’s top executive went on to say that the company is appealing the mature rating, because the game was intended for a teen audience. Chances are if it doesn’t make amends with KeSPA or find a partner that is in the government’s good graces, it won’t get anywhere with that appeal.
But even if Blizzard does manage to find a new partner to handle e-sports in the country (likely), and gets StarCraft II reclassified with a Teen rating (less likely), one has to wonder what happens to StarCraft? The turn of a blind eye, perhaps? A lawsuit? We’ll keep you posted on that situation as it develops.
On a slightly related note, Morhaime predicted that StarCraft II will surpass StarCraft’s worldwide sales record and noted that a "large portion" of any money made off of e-sports in Korea will be rolled back into it in the form of sponsorships, prize money and more.