StarCraft: Remastered won’t kill StarCraft II, unless…

Kwanghee Woo Columnist

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    StarCraft Remastered's huge pre-release event in Korea. (Image: Blizzard Entertainment)

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    Despite fears (and some hopes) to the contrary, StarCraft: Remastered is unlikely to kill StarCraft II esports. In fact, it probably won’t affect it in any way whatsoever.

    StarCraft: Remastered (SC:R) has arrived onto a scene where everyone has already chosen sides between StarCraft: Brood War (BW) and StarCraft II (SC2), and there’s little it can do to move anyone off their entrenched positions.

    Consider the viewers. Most of the competition for StarCraft fan eyeballs has already happened, as high-level Brood War esports has been available to watch for almost the entirety of StarCraft II’s seven-year existence.

    In fact, the first few years of StarCraft II’s release (2010-2012) coincided with the competitive apex of Brood War, where the most skilled progamers of all time were playing in their prime.

    While the Korea e-Sports Association’s (KeSPA) transition to StarCraft II in 2013 did hurt competitive Brood War, a ‘revival’ scene emerged from the ashes. That revival circuit is thriving now, with legendary players streaming regularly, and even playing tournaments in front of huge crowds.

    If that wasn’t enough to push SC2 fans toward BW already, then SC:R’s veneer of fresh paint won’t be the tipping point.

    The other way SC:R could affect StarCraft II esports is from the player side. We’ve seen several SC2 players switch back to BW over the years, including popular, championship-calibre players such as Rain, Flash, and Jaedong.

    The thing is, the current Brood War scene in Korea is still largely a streaming scene, while esports – though growing – is an occasional treat. Tournaments provide a competitive outlet for former pros, but the prize money in the scene is still meagre. Brood War struggles to scrap together $100,000 of total prize money in a year, while StarCraft II has over $2 million in prize winnings subsidized directly by Blizzard.

    Unless one is confident that they can become a successful streamer, making a living off Brood War is a murky proposition. So, once again, we find that all the ‘damage’ to StarCraft II has already been done.

    The players with an aptitude for streaming – whether through past fame or charisma – have had plenty of time to jump ship. The 2016 dissolution of KeSPA SC2 teams and SC2 Proleague was the final, major turning point.

    The players who have remained with StarCraft II afterwards are the ones who truly enjoy the competition, or find it to be their most lucrative career option.

    That points us to the only realistic way SC:R might start taking bites out of SC2’s pie: KeSPA re-entry into Brood War. IF KeSPA were to restart Brood War Proleague and re-establish its professional teams, it would present a viable, alternative path that might convince current SC2 progamers to jump ship.

    Even with so much of Blizzard’s money up for grabs on StarCraft II’s competitive circuit, the stability of a regular paycheck would be hard to resist.

    Still, it’s all an enormous ‘if.’ KeSPA would have to discover a newly positive outlook on Brood War after deciding to move on from it four years ago. Blizzard would have to stomach the shame of symbolically admitting StarCraft II’s failure in Korea by approving SC:R Proleague. The current group of StarCraft II pros would have decide it’s worth re-learning BW to compete against their extremely accomplished peers who have a significant head start.

    These and other factors make the StarCraft II doomsday improbable – but not impossible.

    Of course, many other events also fall under the category of ‘technically not impossible’” StarCraft II could experience a massive surge in popularity and become the number one esport in the world. WarCraft IV could come out in 2019 and eclipse both BW and SC2. Brood War and StarCraft II fans could realize that their mutual animosity is pointless and choose to coexist in peace…

    Scratch that last one – some things truly can’t be done.