Starcraft 2 Rocked by Match-fixing. Community Rejoices

Because it is Sunday (and there is no information), we have another Starcraft II article (I plan to put Starcraft II articles just until Legacy of the Void is released, so only a few weeks left 🙂 ). This time, about E-Sports:

If you thought the Starcraft 2 eSports scene wasn’t “happening” enough, you may want to reconsider: according to Team Liquid, some 11 people have recently been arrested in Korea for match-fixing and illegal gambling, involving the competitive facet of Blizzard’s popular RTS.
The organization most embroiled in this newest scandal to rock the eSports world was the pro team known as Prime. Its head coach, Park Wae-Sik was arrested, together with one of its players, Choi Byung Hyun, known in Starcraft 2 circles as “YoDa”. The arrests followed an investigation by the Korean eSports Association which revealed that at least 5 matches had been thrown by the perpetrators. Apparently, those involved in the cheating received some $4k-$17k per thrown match, while those who took advantage of the situation by betting on the games made around $26-$35k per match.

According to KeSPA, all those involved have already been banned for life from the professional gaming scene, but above and beyond that, the organization will also seek legal action against them. As said above, the number of players involved was around 11, but since there is currently no solid information available on most of them, we will not venture into listing them all. The bottom line is that match-fixing – hand in hand with illegal gambling – has arrived in eSports and the reaction of the community has been an entirely unexpected one. Instead of condemning the incidents and speaking up against the perpetrators, fans populating the message-board sphere are apparently welcoming this rather questionable milestone as one marking the true legitimization of the eSports genre, the logic being: “if there’s match-fixing and illegal gambling in it, it truly is real sport”.
What exactly is behind this relatively novel phenomenon in eSports though? Obviously, the ever-increasing prize-pools and the fact that more and more money is involved are the triggers, but in the case of the KeSPA-sanctioned Starcraft 2 ProLeague, there are other underlying causes too. Apparently, the ProLeague prize-money is extremely top-heavy, meaning that most money goes to the winners while lower-tier players essentially earn “peanuts”. That would answer the very legitimate question of how a $4-$7k reward was worth it for players to throw their matches.

The bottom line is that there are number of different things to learn at the end of this fiasco, but the main takeaway for the majority of fans is that this scandal has probably done a lot more to actually legitimize eSports than the harm it’s done for the reputation of the scene.

Peter Wassenberg works for Gosugamers, the eSports scene’s top community destination.