Though I don’t talk about it often here, I enjoy watching Starcraft, be it Brood War or the current Starcraft 2. Currently, competitive Starcraft 2 is enjoying something of a boom, with tournaments and teams popping up all over the world, from Korea to Ukraine to Las Vegas. This past weekend, one organization tried their hand at a new tournament broadcast format: pay per view.
Typically, Starcraft 2 tournaments are free to view online in some capacity, with additional content available at a cost, such as higher quality video, additional video streams, or recorded match videos you can watch after the live event is over. Major League Gaming, known as having the most exciting Starcraft 2 tournaments in North America, decided that they would have a supplemental event called the “MLG Winter Arena” and that it would require $20 to view live. This barrier to entry in turn caused a large amount of discussion, whether or not $20 was simply too much, business models for eSports organizations, etc. I personally did not pay to watch MLG Winter Arena, especially given that there was a second big tournament going on at the time.
One comment I saw cropping up repeatedly had to do with being a “real fan.” The idea was that if Starcraft 2 tournaments were so important to you, why wouldn’t you prioritize them? For those who can’t afford it at all, there’s no choice, but for those who can, isn’t the product worth its value (tons of big names, very good production values, promises of extremely intense competition). I had the money, but I didn’t use it. For me, as much as I love spectating, Starcraft is not my primary passion or hobby, and if given a choice between spending money on something anime/manga-related and spending money on SC2, I’ll typically lean towards the Japanese comics.
That’s not to say I’m not willing to spend money on Starcraft at all. I felt that the convenience of being able to watch matches any time instead of adhering myself to the Korean time zone was reason enough for me to subscribe to GOMTV’s Global Starcraft 2 League. But I didn’t get the premium package, I got the light one. All of those nice perks offered for the extra money weren’t worth it for me, and I’m glad they gave me the choice. That’s one thing that GOMTV correctly recognized that seemed to get lost in this flurry of discussion: Starcraft fandom (or any fandom in general) does not exist in a binary setting where it’s either one or the other. People can like something, but there may be a limit to how much they like it, especially if money is involved.