Gamasutra: The Art & Business of Making Gamesspacer
arrowPress Releases
April 20, 2014
PR Newswire
View All





If you enjoy reading this site, you might also want to check out these UBM TechWeb sites:


Blizzard Breaks Off KeSPA Talks, Will Seek New  StarCraft  Partner
Blizzard Breaks Off KeSPA Talks, Will Seek New StarCraft Partner
April 27, 2010 | By Leigh Alexander, Chris Remo

April 27, 2010 | By Leigh Alexander, Chris Remo
Comments
    19 comments
More: Console/PC



Blizzard says it's reached an impasse with the Korean e-Sports Players Association, the country's largest professional gaming league, claiming the group hasn't exhibited satisfactory recognition of Blizzard's intellectual property rights to its game StarCraft.

Speaking to Korea's Yonhap News (as translated by fans on the Team Liquid forum), Blizzard says it will seek a new partner to head up competitive StarCraft play, a particularly relevant issue as it prepares for the launch of StarCraft II.

KeSPA has asserted control over StarCraft television broadcast rights, a point of particular contention for Blizzard. Recently, Blizzard countered that move by throwing its weight behind Gretech Corporation's online streaming broadcaster GOM TV, but KeSPA in turn responded by threatening to kick pro teams from its own league if they appeared in GOM events.

Earlier this month, StarCraft II received a fairly prohibitive 18-plus rating in South Korea, an obstacle that may be related to the ongoing dispute. Blizzard says it will appeal the rating.

Competitive play of StarCraft is an enormously popular sport in the country, and KeSPA and Blizzard have had tension in the past as Blizzard sought more ownership of and involvement in the competition around its game, while KeSPA has aimed to retain sole control over the sport. The release of StarCraft II may be viewed as a threat to KeSPA's dominance over StarCraft gaming.

"We've been negotiating with the association about intellectual property rights for the last three years, and we've made no progress at all," said Blizzard's Mike Morhaime in the Yonhap interview.

"We're going to stop negotiating with them and look for a new partner," he added. "Blizzard obviously has the IP rights to the StarCraft series, but those rights aren't being respected, and we can't keep having these fruitless negotiations with the release of Starcraft II at hand."


Related Jobs

Activision Publishing
Activision Publishing — Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
[04.19.14]

Principal Graphics Programmer
Activision Publishing
Activision Publishing — Santa Monica, California, United States
[04.19.14]

Executive Producer-Skylanders
Insomniac Games
Insomniac Games — Burbank, California, United States
[04.18.14]

Associate Engine Programmer
Insomniac Games
Insomniac Games — Burbank , California, United States
[04.18.14]

Senior Engine Programmer










Comments


John Mawhorter
profile image
I would wonder how its possible to disrespect Blizzard's IP rights while operating a competitive league. I feel that it is ridiculous of Blizzard to expect to control a community league, but maybe they are encouraging piracy or something or don't have licenses for all the machines used in competition.

Paul Peak
profile image
@John

The same way the NFL enforces it's rights on the television broadcasters here in the US. The NFL/NBA/MLB/NHL have strict licensing agreements with the networks and there are laws that forbid the recording and rebroadcast of games. KeSPA makes a significant amount of money off StarCraft and Blizzard wasn't getting any of it for a long time, they may still not be getting any of it I'm not certain.

Robert Casey
profile image
Seems reasonable to me for Blizzard to take this stand.

Anthony Charles
profile image
@ paul

i don't think the comparison to pro sports is appropriate. the analogy with pro sports would be if the company that made the footballs tried to get a cut of the NFL's profits. you said it, those sports have licensing agreements with networks. blizzard is not entitled to a stake of esports profits just because they made the game.

Paul Peak
profile image
@ Anthony

I admit the analogy was off. But a video game is distinctly diiferent from a ball, with it's own licensing agreements and all.



I'm curious what the other pro gamer leagues do with regards to the game publishers and design studios. Do they seek licensing agreements with them in order to use their games?

Joshua Sterns
profile image
If someone has fully purchased the game legitimately, then they should be able to play it without any additional cost not already specified.



If that game is then broadcast on television or some other form of mass media, then the game IP owner needs to approve and may ask for money.



Not too sure about live gaming events. Technically the audience didn't purchase the game, and the league makes money off the attraction of said game and the players. If the players get a cut (not sure if they do), then shouldn't the IP owners? Can a company prevent a gaming league from playing their title?



That's my gut feeling.

David Fried
profile image
The NFL makes tons of money from football. They get a cut of everything, do they not? Blizzard is the NFL of Starcraft. =P But MORE than that... Blizzard would be the guy who INVENTED football...

Michael Smith
profile image
It sounds like Blizzard wants to break up KESPA's stranglehold on Starcraft broadcasts in Korea, and they're using their legal copyright to do so. Otherwise, if this is just Blizzard after more money, it doesn't make much sense.



The NFL comparison is poor. Blizzard would be the guy who invented and maintains the rules and equipment of american football; KESPA would be the guys who control the broadcasting and leagues, thus the sport. KESPA is like the NFL. That's not a pro-KESPA sentiment, that's an anti-NFL sentiment. ;) That's also not to say I believe broadcasters need to pay royalties to the creators. That feels like double charges, given the players and commentators already bought the game. If royalties do become standard for e-sports, then it would significantly impact amateur commentating, which I love.

Mark Harris
profile image
By definition "amateur commentating" implies that no money is changing hands. The point at which you accept money for a service you are no longer an amateur. True amateurs won't have any responsibility to Blizzard because they won't be making money off the use of Blizzard's IP.

gus one
profile image
It's blatent copyright infringment. But I can see that because I am commercial.

Anthony Charles
profile image
if it was blatant copyright infringment this wouldn't be an issue. it's a gray area. what has value in the esports arena is not the starcraft product, but the performance of the KeSPA players. hundreds of thousands of koreans are not interested in looking at a marine, but rather what the athlete does with it. i don't believe blizzard is entitled to anything.

Mark Harris
profile image
Anthony, you have a point and I understand where you're coming from, but let me ask some questions. Would KeSPA be making the same amount of money if the players were playing a different RTS? Would they have anywhere near the same attendance/viewers without the Starcraft name? Are the spectators interested in what a player does with just any marine, or are they interested in what the player does with a Starcraft marine? Are they banking on an IP owned by Blizzard to drive revenue or is the revenue stream IP agnostic?



I don't know the answers to these questions, but the situation is definitely more complicated then traditional sports. The NFL isn't going to lose viewers if they change the brand of football they use... but KeSPA may lose everything if they switch to Supreme Commander.



edit : grammar issues

John Mawhorter
profile image
The difference as I see it is that no-one technically owns football, while there may be standardized rules of play in NFL and college (which are different, I'd point out), you can't exactly own a game whose rules everyone knows already and they can play anywhere there is a field and a ball. I mean I guess you technically could but it doesn't seem like that's true. Whereas Blizzard actually owns Starcraft. What that means for broadcasting it is interesting... and I'm not sure who I'd side with in this case. I guess I am tempted to side with the league simply because of the possibility that this kind of ruling would put amateur eSports out of business (if the game company wanted to).

Mark Harris
profile image
Again, I don't think anything amateur would be effected. For eSports to be amateur there would have to be no tangible gain derived from the competition, giving the the game company no grounds to restrict the action.

Chad Nimmo
profile image
Another analogy may be to compare the situation to other IP-based industries such as movies. Let's say Paramount Pictures makes a movie called "Crafting Stars". TBS cannot go down to their local Best Buy and purchase a copy of the DVD, then come back to their studio and broadcast it over the airwaves for you to watch on a lazy Sunday afternoon flipping stations. TBS cannot say, well we bought our copy of the movie legitimately, so we can do with it whatever we want. TBS has to negotiate a licensing agreement with Paramount to be able to show the film and make advertising revenue off of it.



I don't know if this analogy is any better than the NFL one, but it seems more fitting to me. And if you replace Paramount and TBS with Blizzard and KeSPA, respectively, it leans in favor of Blizzard.

Michael Smith
profile image
You don't have to make a profit for Blizzard to assert control over their copyright. This is especially true if they make money on pro commentating, since amateur commentating impacts those profits.

Douglas Rae
profile image
Esports are not some magical mystical thing... rules are rules, laws are laws... just because you can upload to youtube or [insert generic video streaming site here] withing a few minutes, quietly, alone in some little cupboard; doesn't make it right to blatantly make money off of another company's hard work. Ill just go stick my TV against my window and charge people to stand around gawping at it!



Sew the @ss of that crappy organization and keep your game under your control. I personally look forward to an underground starcraft league where they will swap VHS of the "good old days" whilst the rest of us can play smoothly on Battle.net.



Now take the idea that eSports is different and forget it; its all gravy.

Chaz Walker
profile image
@Chad Nimmo.



You're close, but a bit off base.



If Paramont uses Apple computers in the creation of their film--assuming no Apple computer appears in the film, and they make no mention of using Apple computers to draw a certain crowd, would you expect them to pay royalties to Apple for the use of their computers?



That's how ridiculous Blizzard is being.



People aren't watching the KeSPA brodcasts because they want to see Starcraft being played; they're watching it because they want to see the players playing it.



Should KeSPA also pay royalties to any computer manufacturers who's computers were used to play Starcraft? Should they pay royalties to the keyboard manufacturers? Should Microsoft get some royalties? How about the power companies? The food manufactureres who made food for the players (since it would be impossible for them to live without food?) Mother nature? Where do you draw the line? KeSPA saw an opportunity (and probably approached Blizzard who promptly laughed in their faces) and invested into it.



KeSPA invested themselves in building a franchise. It was a gamble. Should Blizzard be allowed to reap in the goods now that it's paying out? If KeSPA wasn't responsible for the success of KeSPA, then Blizzard wouldn't need to negotiate with them at all. They would just start their own league. Blizzard needs to force KeSPA to give them money because KeSPA's name is what's selling.



Honestly, it would be exactly the same as "American Idle" demanding royalties from TV makers for displaying their show. Or TV makers demanding royalties from "American Idle" to display their show. Neither can happen without the other, but that doesn't mean that either should pay royalties to the other.

Don Todd
profile image
You all seem to be missing a fairly important point. One that -everybody- seems to be missing, in fact.



KeSPA should be paying royalties. They should be quite happy to do so, considering Blizzard can (and likely will) put a kibosh on their ability to broadcast, display, or otherwise operate anything involving their game.



Why should they be paying royalties, you ask? Haven't they already paid for their copies of the game? Isn't that enough? Under normal circumstances, yeah, it would be. But these are abnormal circumstances. This is being broadcast, live, to lots of people.



Now, see, there's this tricky bit involved with art and law. Mainly, the idea we need to worry about here is public exhibition. If you were to involve something that someone can lay claim to, they have -EVERY RIGHT- to ask you for money for it. And if you don't pay, they have -EVERY RIGHT- to ask you to pull it. Why? Because they own that art. They own those images, they have them copyrighted, and to use them, you must at least seek permission if not pay royalties.



It doesn't matter what the success of KeSPA is based on. It doesn't matter -why- people watch the matches. Whether it's to see someone get the Dong, or to look at little Terrans on the screen, you are -STILL- looking at Terrans, interacting with Zerg, in a base filled with Zerg buildings...



You see my point? Regardless of -why- you are watching a StarCraft match, you -are- watching a StarCraft match. And that match is inevitably filled with hundreds of examples of somebody's art that, while generating revenue for KeSPA and all related sponsors and partners, generates no further income for the artist that deserves it.



Now, I'm not the biggest Bliz fan in the universe - pony, $2m, etc. I won't deny that they're as money-grubbing as any other megacorp out there. But to say they're whack out of line for demanding what is, ultimately and by copyright law, theirs, simply because nobody's -interested- in that aspect, is childish and ultimately foolish.



Bliz wants a slice of what, unfortunately, is theirs to claim. For KeSPA, it was a choice between a) make less money or b) make no money at all. They chose...poorly.


none
 
Comment: