MLG Anaheim 2014 – Starcraft 2 Not Dead Game

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Can you remember 2011? Can you look back and think about the new-age of eSports where Starcraft 2: Wings of Liberty was still new and people were fiending for SC2 competition on a weekly basis? I can for sure. While I enjoy literally every eSports title (League of Legends, Dota 2, CS:GO, etc) there isn’t a game that gives me the same feeling, both as a player and spectator, than the glorious RTS game known as Starcraft. The rebirth of the eSports scene in general (after the golden age of Starcraft: Brood War ended) is probably thanks to the competitive support  Blizzard gave it’s game and the continual nurturing of the scene by the scene through unique content creation and the rise of full-time streamers.

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But it’s not 2011 anymore, it’s 2014. SC2 is certainly not in the same place it once was in terms of it’s impact and perception in the eSports ecosystem. League of Legends and Dota 2 have more viewership and more fierce competition – which therefore means there’s more money being pumped into those scenes. SC2 has the eternal dilemma of the Korean progamers being at the top of the food chain and dominating tournament results in comparison to players from NA and EU. If tournament organizers wanted their competition to be successful (both in terms of viewership and participation) they would have to spend big money flying out multiple Korean players overseas. The dilemma develops further after you consider the fact that NA and EU players were reluctant to enter tournaments with big name Korean stars because it wouldn’t be worth their time to inevitably lose. This puts SC2 in a state that the community refers to as “a dead game” for obvious reasons. SC2 viewership on Twitch is less than games like Minecraft, DayZ, and barely more than Smite. Beyond that, the pro players that don’t see consistent results are usually sent into a position of retirement due to the simple reason of not being able to make a living out of playing the game full time anymore.

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After returning from MLG Anaheim this weekend, I can safely report that SC2 is NOT a dead game. Well, at least not the competitive spirit of it. This MLG had SC2, Call of Duty: Ghosts, and Super Smash Bros Melee as the main stage attractions and it was clear to see that SC2 had the smallest crowd. However, from the high level players that attended as well as a healthy amount of people who participated in the open-bracket pool play, you can tell that the people who still play the game care just as much now than ever before. While storylines and rivalries aren’t as prevalent, the thought that these professional players put into the game hasn’t fallen off over the game’s decline in popularity. For some pro gamers, the dream of winning a major tournament is still in their grasp while other who have already won before are looking to solidify their place in the scene. It’s true a lot of formerly big name players have either retired or disappeared from the scene entirely, but that’s not to say the legendary players of the past aren’t still around to make their mark in the community.

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If SC2 was truly dead, there wouldn’t still be interesting headliner stories to read about. The winner of the SC2 tournament at MLG was Trap from team Incredible Miracle. The 20 year old Korean Protoss player won his first live SC2 competition against the previous MLG champion Polt in a dominating grand final match. Other storylines include the return of the god known as Nestea to the U.S., a Korean Zerg player who was widely considered the best player in the world for a long stretch of time. Lets not forget Scarlett, who was the highest finishing foreigner player at 4th place. Personally, the highlight of the entire tournament was just being able to see players like Violet, Bomber, Life, and Leenock in person again.

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So lets be honest – SC2 is indeed a dead game for all intents and purposes. But the things that make SC2 the great game that it once was is still there, and players recognize if they want the scene to stay around that they need to keep growing the level of competition. So as long as money keeps getting circulated in the scene, the fans that moved on will certainly return and if the community continues to support the players, events, and the game itself then there’s no reason why anyone should have to call SC2 a “dead game” anymore.

Photos by @ATB_FTW

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by Derrick Truong, on June 23, 2014