Some know Korea for the deadly 1950-1953 conflict, others may appreciate the kimchi, but for most of us, it’s the undisputed birthplace of esports. 2 decades ago, koreans who dressed up as video game characters and gathered in arenas to watch teenagers battle it out on PCs for million dollars prizes provided hours of entertainment for western observers. Today, we’re doing the same thing. Oh you heard about that new K-Pop band? Yeah you did!
The game that started it all, of course, is Blizzard’s award winning, record-breaking RTS, Starcraft. Koreans were quick to set up their own Brood Wars leagues, which were soon televised by at least 2 dedicated TV channels. Players attracted fans, groupies, sponsors, and mainstream success. The game became so popular that it was declared South Korea’s national sport.
This continued until 2010, when Blizzard’s long-anticipated release of StarCraft II sidelined Brood Wars in the hearts and minds of Korean egamers.
Riding high on a feeling of retro-nostalgia, Blizzard worked to remaster it’s original 1999 title for modern gaming last year. While preserving the original’s gameplay, the re-release upgraded graphics for retina display screens as well as the sound. Korean Starcraft legends Flash, Bisu, and Jaedong provided input throughout development.
This time around, Blizzard expects to take a hands-on approach to esports in the country. The game’s release comes with the creation of the first-ever Blizzard-owned and operated Korean StarCraft: Remastered League. Blizzard released a statement explaining their intentions behind the move: “Korea StarCraft League will become Blizzard’s flagship esports tournament for the beloved real-time strategy game, which has been viewed by millions around the world across nearly two decades and considered by many to represent the pinnacle of esports competition,”
It’s clear that despite the newer Starcraft title, as well as the popularity of other Blizzard franchises in Korea, nostalgia for the original game remains extremely high. Fans are pleased that the remaster didn’t compromise on the 1998-feeling gameplay and strategies, allowing Classic Starcraft tournaments to remain distinct-from and competitive-with other Starcraft II-based leagues.