Posted August. 01, 2005 06:08,
Teenagers were seated in all 8,000 plastic chairs in front of the stage at Gwanganri Beach, Busan, at 6:00 p.m. on July 30.
On the stage about 50 pyeong in area, there was a prefabricated booth similar to a box office, a place where two personal computers and two chairs managed to fit.
In the 2005 Sky Pro-League final, a competition among gamers of the strategy simulation computer game Starcraft was under way. Some 20,000 others were not able to sit. They stood in front of the large screen on the beach shouting out for their favorite professional gamers like Hong Jin-ho and Yim Yo-han.
Those who took the 8,000 seats came to the beach a day earlier to get tickets. The majority of them were in their teens.
Lee Chi-won, a senior at Haenam Middle School in Busan, was in the 10th row. When I came here at seven in the morning with my classmates, there were over 500 people in line, said the 16-year-old student. I think we were lucky to sit in one of the front rows.
Computer games are everything to the youngsters who filled the place, cheering for their players, as baduk is to middle-aged people. Baduk is a sport which demands both mental and physical strength, though players do not run as hard as those playing baseball or football. Winning the game Starcraft depends on strategic thinking and physical stamina.
However, Starcraft is different from baduk in some ways. It requires quick fingers. Team play is possible, and one game takes on average five to 30 minutes, shorter than baduk. The game has stunning cinematics, attracting attention and interest among teenagers.
The final was a competition between SK Telecom and KTF, two rival telecommunications firms, in a best-of-seven championship format. SK Telecom won with 4-1 victory. SK Telecom planned to give away over 100 million won in total prizes to its gamers, but the company reaped profits larger than that amount.
SK Telecom said that managing the team of gamers proved to be as effective as 15 billion won of expenses in promoting the company last year. It spent two billion won in operating the team over the same period. KTF released its internal analysis that it received marketing effects of 46.8 billion won with the expense of 4.5 billion won over the last five years.
According to the Samsung Economic Research Institute (SERI), running a professional football or basketball team requires five to 10 billion won, while managing a professional gaming team needs a mere five hundred million to two billion won. Less money reaps bigger benefits.
Particularly, IT products and computer games have the same consumer base: those in their teens and 20s. This is why SK Telecom, KTF, Samsung Electronics and Pantech & Curitel own e-sports teams.
The future of e-sports is uncertain. E-sports have distorted the structure of gaming, which now depends solely on Starcraft.
Starcrafts popularity is losing steam since its development eight years ago by Blizzard, an American company. The e-sports industry has suggested homegrown games as alternatives, but ardent fans interest only applies to Starcraft.
Lee An-jae, a senior researcher of SERI, said, Korea has seen growing popularity in e-sports thanks in large part to Starcraft, yet the industry has only a few popular games. It is important to develop new domestic computer games with the cooperation of game software companies in the long term, maintained Lee.