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Starcraft: Remastered – Will the RTS Esports King Return to Glory?

By Chris Blain in Sports
| November 10, 2017 12:00 am PDT
starcraft-remastered-esports|starcraft 1|starcraft 2

When you hear the word “sports,” I am confident a few different activities will instantly pop into your mind. Football, basketball, baseball, and of course StarCraft. Which of these would you prefer to be watching right now? For me, I am going to go with StarCraft!

StarCraft isn’t your run of the mill activity, but it is an esport that has millions of dedicated followers worldwide. At one point,  it was the unofficial national sport in South Korea where professional players and teams would compete in televised matches.

Today you will learn about StarCraft and its meteoric rise to success around the world that influenced the esports world as we know it. If you are a professional esports bettor, you can benefit significantly from understanding what brought this game to such heights.

Welcome to the StarCraft Universe!

If you are a gamer or follow esports at all, I am sure you have heard of the famous game known as StarCraft. It has been a staple of the gaming universe for many years. The argument can be made that esports were brought to the spotlight from this title.

However, even if you are familiar with this title, you may not know the dynamics behind the game.

What is StarCraft?

Starcraft is a Real-Time Strategy (RTS) based game that was released in 1998 by Blizzard Entertainment and takes place in a sci-fi universe set in the 26th century. Players control one of three armies to fight in a single player campaign against the computer controlled Artificial Intelligence which has a rewarding and involved storyline.

The options of armies are that of Terran (Humans), Protoss (super advanced space aliens), and Zerg (genetically engineered mutant cockroach monsters from hell). They all have their unique playstyles, strengths, and weaknesses with deep backgrounds explained throughout the game.

starcraft 1

The game was revolutionary at the time within the RTS community. It gave players the ability to choose one of three armies rather than picking a side. The game worked by building up structures and producing units, slowly compiling an army of soldiers and vehicles.

Each structure and unit would cost minerals to build. These resources would get gathered by collection based units from the mineral fields placed around the maps. The goal was to build up strong bases and an army to obliterate opponents.

Much like its predecessors of Warcraft: Orcs & and Humans and Warcraft 2: Tides of Darkness, StarCraft had a great storyline, but the multiplayer experience was the real reason this game shined. Players were able to battle against other people in team matches or free for all.

Fighting against the computer was an exciting aspect, but it could never compete against defeating other humans since a game is meant to be beaten. People are an entirely different beast to fight against, and the fan base agreed.

StarCraft grew for years and became ever more popular, releasing the expansion pack known as “Starcraft: Brood War.” The addition to the original game added even more to this fantastic title such as adjustments, units, and bug fixes.  The addition also furthered the in-depth storyline to draw players deeper.

The Rise of the Esports Scene

Starcraft was a universal success selling over 9.5 million copies around the globe with its original release. Blizzard reported an 800 percent increase in their Battle.net online multiplayer service after the release of SC.

Want to know something awe-inspiring? 4.5 million of those sales occurred in South Korea alone. That number means quite a bit when you consider the fact that their population is one-sixth of the U.S.A. You may wonder what made StarCraft so popular in South Korea.

The craze known as “PC bangs” were just starting to take off at the exact time that StarCraft became available. These places were your internet café type environment that provided computer rentals in which players could game together.

The gaming culture within SK began to form into a more social atmosphere compared to the rest of the world. Once it started to be treated as a sport, StarCraft grew by leaps and bounds thanks to South Korean culture. When the expansion pack of Brood War came out, it increased the popularity even more.

Matches became televised, and the best of the players began to get treated like celebrities. In the early 2000s, StarCraft competition circuits started where teams were formed from pro-gamers and sponsored by South Korean companies like Samsung, SK Telecom, and KT.

Outside of the enormous competition base in South Korea, StarCraft was the most popular game during the annual World Cyber Games tournament. The game reigned supreme within the entertainment scene for many years.

We cannot deny the contribution that StarCraft and South Korean fan support have provided to the growth of esports. As time has gone on, changes have come to the worldwide gaming scene.

StarCraft 2

When Blizzard released StarCraft 2, there were some mixed feelings behind this title. These mixed feelings were partially due to the fact it was over 10 years since the original SC made its triumphant debut in the esports world. MOBAs and other such styles of games were now in the competition for the spotlight.

The game itself is incredibly fun, and I love the storyline and single-player campaign. The three chapters, Wings of Liberty, Heart of the Swarm, and Legacy of the Void are all brilliantly made.

starcraft 2

The multiplayer game is a different story. The aspects have been dramatically increased to involve a lot more than what the original could accomplish. There are some issues with balancing that continue to occur, and when Blizzard attempts to fix imbalances they tend to make the new problems.

The result is a constant back and forth juggling act where they try to solve problems, create more, fix those, rinse and repeat. The game also did not get the initial response in South Korea that Blizzard hoped for either.

Those professionals who were the masters at the original StarCraft saw SC2 as a possible threat to their supremacy within the tournament environment. New means changes and that is a potential risk to those who have been running the scene for years. Some of them were not quick to change to this new platform to test out their skills.

StarCraft 2 was somewhat well received overall in the world, but when it came to South Korea and the “scene,” it was a complete disaster. StarCraft: Brood War was the popular game there and came at the right time with the emerging “PC Bang” market.

From the start of its release, there were countless issues with StarCraft 2 in the goal of taking over where the original game had left off. There were fingers to point and plenty of blame to throw around. Much of that went Blizzard Entertainment’s way, especially when it came to the SK market.

Some of the critical problems with StarCraft 2 and its glory within the esports scene were

  • Balance issues within the game
  • Lack of esports support from Blizzard
  • Lack of cooperation between Blizzard and the South Korean Tournament power brokers
  • Questions regarding licensing fees to play the games in PC Bangs
  • Blizzard was directly in control of the esports scene rather than the fan base

The list goes on and on but one thing is for sure, the StarCraft 2 scene in South Korea is nothing like it once was.

The Re-release

Starcraft: Remastered officially released as of August 14, 2017. This version features higher end graphics and revised audio to capture that nostalgic joy the original game brought to the world. However, the remastered release has not gone without issue.

PC Bangs in South Korea have had issues with Blizzard, accusing them of breaching antitrust law by placing a .20 cent charge per hour for offering customers the new version of StarCraft. For the purchase of the original SC, the owners of these internet cafes were able to pay a one-time fee.

The remastered version of the game, according to Blizzard, offers extra experience points and other additional benefits to those who play at “PC Bangs” and therefore justifies the added charge. The additional cost is another issue when it comes to trying to rekindle that StarCraft fire back into South Korea.

The Wrap Up

The rise of StarCraft within the world of esports is a true story of absolute success and shows how a fan base can change a video game into a pseudo-national sport. Esports now celebrate those who would at one point hideaway playing in their basements.

Fame, money, and all that come with that came to these professionals. However, the esports scene has evolved far beyond just the South Korean StarCraft empire and has taken on a life of its own. Multiplayer Online Battle Arenas are fighting for the top slots of attention and StarCraft 1 and 2 seem to be the only RTS’s that still maintain any spotlight.

Although SC 1 and 2 still have notoriety within the esports world, the focus they once held is no longer where it once was. Though some believed Blizzard could make or break the scene if they put their full resources behind the game, it is debatable.

The world of esports is significantly defined by Blizzard Entertainment since they are involved with almost all aspects of the scene. However, they have multiple titles to focus on and throwing their power into StarCraft may not be the best course of action for them.

As an esports bettor, you’ll need to sit back and watch what goes down in this scene to see if the remastered version will inevitably make a steady return to its lofty peak. The competitive environment is still stable around both 1 and 2 with the world championships at BlizzCon 2017 coming up.

South Korea and their fanbase raising StarCraft back to the level it once was is a different story. We will just have to wait and find out what happens.

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