That Starcraft 2 is a dead game has been said several times with varying levels of accuracy. What has never changed is that the game has maintained a small but dedicated group of dedicated content producers and fans, seeing resurgences with every new expansion. Legacy of the Void did a lot to give players more options. I have covered this in a previous post but I’ll recap quickly here.
They did two main things to improve player retention and attract more players: firstly they made the game free to play and secondly they introduced game modes such as Co-op commander. This made the game more accessible so that players who were hesitant didn’t have a price barrier between them and the experience and perhaps more importantly it introduced diversity. Before Starcraft had always been a binary choice, campaign or ladder. (I know I’m ignoring the Arcade.) This meant that players daunted by the ladder but that enjoyed the game on a single player level would have no where to go after the story. Co-op commander changed this. It gave players a wide variety of campaign style mission to enjoy, in my opinion this made the game more accessible and gave players more reason to return to the game.
Recently however I’ve been seeing a spike in viewership for Starcraft 2 tournaments. I think I can sum up why in a single name, Serral. It is no secret that a lack of competition makes for a stale league. In Starcraft since its inception, Korean’s have been the dominant force on the scene, there have been good western players but the highest moniker they could achieve was best foreigner. This meant that for western viewers, their favourites or home town heroes were often eliminated early in tournaments. Serral changed that when he became the best player in the world. Not the best Foreign player, the best player.
It is not just Serral, players like Scarlett, Reynor and Special are representing the foreign scene to a high level as well. Leaving the Starcraft Two in a position where western players stand a much better chance of rewarding their fans with deep runs and tournament wins. This raises the stakes for fans as it is no longer a faint hope but a reality that their favourite players can win high profile matches.
Let’s talk about Serral, not only was he the western hope but he delivered in a big way. He won every major WCS circuit in Europe, GSL vs the World and Blizzcon. It was an exciting time to be an SC2 fan when a western player hoisted the Blizzcon trophy. not only winning the tournament but overthrowing 20+ years of Korean Dominance, it was a moment few fans will forget.
His story is one that is rejuvenating for the western scene, the deadlock is broken, the gap is closed and the precedent has been set for other western players. But lets back this speculation that Serral has been good for the scene up with some stats. (figures are without Chinese viewership.) These are the figures for Blizzcon 2017 and 2018.
2017= 101.53k Peak Viewership
2018 = 175.20k Peak Viewership
And IEM Katowice 2018 and 2019
2018 = 65.4k Peak Viewership
2019 =78.80k Peak Viewership
So there we have it, the figures for non chinese viewership have risen over the last year and not by insubstantial margins. I’m sure that there are reasons beyond the success of Serral, but I’d be stunned if the greater success of foreign players wasn’t a part of it.
To conclude, Starcraft 2 has given us fantastic events and competitions for years, but recently it has given us something different. The deadlock has now been broken and a western player has become the best player in the world, destroying top Koreans. Yes, he isn’t infallible but it has given a portion of the Starcraft Two community that has watched their stars finish second best for years a champion. It really is a game that keeps on giving fans and players amazing results and memories.
If you haven’t checked out SC2 I would recommend that you do so, there has never been a better time to hop in and give it a go. If you have any theories for why the non Chinese viewership has risen, let me know in the comments section below.