Five problems of StarCraft II

Oversaturation in StarCraft II does exist.  Everyone’s favourite RTS game has a great ecosystem built around it, but it has a way to go until it’s perfect.  What are the current problems and what can we do about them?


One week there’s Intel Extreme Masters, the week after there’s MLG, the week after there’s DreamHack and all the while GSL pumps out great content almost every day.  There’s no chance to keep up with all of that unless all you do is eat, sleep and watch StarCraft.

Fans are made to pick and choose based on the tournament brands they like, commentators they enjoy watching, favourable event time zones and maybe their favourite players attending.   Players need to carefully pick events to attend as well. What doesn’t help?  The following:


Most tournament brands have their own qualifiers, their own event series, their own championship and their own ranking.  It’s tough enough to follow one circuit, let alone see all seven or so of those threads intertwined and mixed up.

Simple infographic explaining the esports model behind professional SC2.

There are seven CEOs and each one wants to say his event is the ultimate.  It’s confusing to people inside esports and even more so for the mainstream press and outsiders.  The press are sold stories about half a dozen ultimate champions each year.


Tournaments can be played out in group play, single elimination, quadruple elimination, best of 3, best of 5, best of 7.  No one can make sense of that in the big picture.  Leagues feel insecure and do what they can to bring in as many player celebrities as possible.  They invite big names, backdoor them into their competitions and create systems where they are shown in as many games as possible.

As a result, we get to watch a limited set of player names over and over and over up to the point of being tired of it.  Not only does it get harder for someone new to break through, but the viewers begin to be narrow-minded about new players and see them as uninteresting rather than exciting (except in the GSL).


Professional StarCraft II is too top-heavy in its rewards and the StarCraft II middle class is dying.  Being a top player lets you earn $100,000 a year in prizes, but placing six spots below him on a regular basis won’t pay for your rent.

Players that aren’t good enough to win major titles but are able to challenge the NesTeas of this world and finish top four sometimes…  We see them quit with beautiful announcements, or quietly.  They can’t afford to play full time, but the middle class are the most important group of players.

Select and several other players have announced their retirement recently.

Stephano won’t play any better than he does already if you pay him twenty times more than he earns.  He will play many times better if the number of players that challenge him on an every day basis (in tournaments and in training) gets multiplied.


It is very difficult to break through for new talents for some of the above reasons.  Also, they rarely get a chance to play on the big stage without pulling major cash out of their pockets first.  Secondly, when they finally do, they get beaten by better players and denied high enough tournament placings to get noticed by teams and sponsors.

It’s on the backs of better players that young ones eventually climb to the top.  But they can’t reach the top if the most skilled player in the region is 16th or so at a big tournament.

You don’t magically arrive at the top. You only get there in small steps.

Korean players (somehow not always ones that have sponsors) show up to major events by the dozen, take all the prize money and go back to Korea.  Money’s drained out of local ecosystems by outsiders.  Money that needs to stay in the ecosystem to provide a living for local pros and semi pros, ones upcoming players can learn from to get better.

All of this, and more, are the challenges ahead.  Gloomy?

We are young.  We will fix it.

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No LoL esports without Riot’s $$$?

Riot Games receives a lot of hatred from many directions for the absurdly large amounts of money that they spend on esports.  So much so that people think that League of Legends wouldn’t have made it as an esports game without it.  Well that thought is a big load of crap.

[I am not here to glorify Riot Games, merely correct a couple of useless misconceptions.  In fact, I disagree with a number of things they do in esports or otherwise.  However, because people in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones, I won’t openly discuss the details.]

Granted, it’s easy to be distracted from everything else with the amount of money Riot is spending.  $5,000,000 on prizes per year, live events of their own, an orchestra at the World Championship and their investment into the esports big leagues.  And Season 3 „will be bigger.”  The American let’s make a statement approach.  Quite a statement and quite a distraction from the really, really good stuff Riot have done in esports.

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OMG my game is better than yours!!!

DotA 2 has a higher skill ceiling than League of Legends.  Although I am unable to make this judgment myself (I do have plans to play and enjoy DotA 2), I will assume that the opening sentence is completely true.

And so comes the key question: so what if DotA 2 has a higher skill ceiling?

“LoL is for casuals and DotA 2 has more skill depth, so it should be in every competition out there,” many would answer.  Even if the skill depth statement is 100% true, skill depth alone has never made a game successful as an esport.

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Putting a finger on esports commentary

Have you ever watched an esports broadcast where two commentators seem to have everything they need to be good, but for some reason they still don’t sound fantastic?  And you just can’t put your finger on why that is.  Maybe my finger will be of some help.

There are several obvious traits and skills that make a good commentator.  Those would be:

  • Great grasp of the language;
  • Charisma and personality;
  • Game knowledge;
  • A good voice;

There’s much more than that - that’s where most commentators fall short.

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Thoughts on the new IEM with StarCraft II

In case you haven’t noticed, we’ve announced the new season of the Intel Extreme Masters. And with it, some significant changes to how our StarCraft II tournaments are going to run.

For those of you unaware of the changes, here’s a quick rundown:

IEM stops will have 24 players: 16 will qualify online and 8 will come from an open tournament on Day 1.

We are very proud of the fact that you need to qualify for every Intel Extreme Masters tournament and that we don’t do invitations. We’ve given a chance to great many players and some of them have made a mark in StarCraft II (Feast went through five qualifiers to get to our Kiev event and went on to take 4th place at our World Championship event).

This philosophy of ours got a lot of people complaining about the lineup of players attending our events. I find those complaints offensive to the players that won spots at our events.

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How a good business model makes a good esport game

StarCraft II will die as a professional esport due to an in-built, genetic flaw.  Same as all esports before it.  League of Legends might be the first game not to.

The game’s longevity lies in how well it manages to replace its leavers with fresh blood. I consider a game dead (or dying) when it ceases to deliver new champions and when more people leave the scene than enter it.

One would think that the life span of an esports title depends mainly the quality of its gameplay.  That is not the case.  At least as important, if not more so, is the business model behind the game.

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