News Blast: The End of the Starcraft Pro League
Today, the Korean Esports Association (KeSPA) made a big announcement: the formal Starcraft ProLeague would come to an end. Although there are a lot of different reasons that the Starcraft league was cancelled, the Chairman of KeSPA summed it up reasonably well:
[T]he drop in the number of ProLeague teams and players, difficulty securing league sponsors, and match fixing issues have made it challenging to maintain ProLeague.
This is not an isolated assessment. Professional eSports organization TeamLiquid also noted that five professional Starcraft II pro teams also disbanded. Although people on Twitter have already declared Starcraft dead in Korea or competitive Starcraft II dead altogether, Blizzard has yet to issue any response and the 2016 WCS (World Championship Series) Global Finals are still scheduled for early November.
It’s no surprise to anybody that interest in watching Starcraft has decreased significantly in the past years while viewership of games like League of Legends and DOTA2 have dominated the eSports milieu. But, even considering the popularity of LoL and DOTA2, it just feels like the end of an era; Starcraft II was the impetus for the ever-popular “Barcraft” phenomenon that started in 2011 in the United States. That was the time where a bar could potentially fill any day of the week with either live streams or recently played games of professional Starcraft. Of course, with that being said, the whole “watching video games in a bar” phenomenon was arguably already losing steam before this announcement; both the Barcraft sub-Reddit and the TeamLiquid Barcraft listing are mostly vacant.
Whether this is the end of the line or just a bump in the road, it’s hard not to look at this as a condemnation of eSports as nothing more than a fad, or at least something that will never have the social gravitas of “real” competitive sports. Nowadays, it’s probably easier to find a RuPaul’s Drag Race watch party in a bar than it would be an eSports event. Perhaps it just says something about the nature of watching events as a group.