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."