In South Korea, StarCraft is serious business: Professional players make as much as $300,000 a year from tournaments and endorsements, and StarCraft tourneys pack stadiums with players and fans. (See: this picture.)
But now, the integrity of the game is being seriously called into question: In a scandal that’s drawing comparisons to the Black Sox scandals of 1919, which brought down ballplayers like Shoeless Joe Jackson, it’s been discovered that top South Korean players have been colluding with StarCraft gambling rings, fixing matches and leaking gameplay footage for insider betting.
As Gamepron reports, “various pro gamers” were involved in rigging their matches in coordination with illegal gambling groups, having some players intentionally lose their matches as well as leak replay files of their matches to said gambling groups. But it wasn’t just a few current players involved in the deceit — evidently the widespread match-fixing involved retired players and coaches who helped the gambling rings get in contact with the current players in the first place.
And what’s more, reports state that the e-sports organizers in South Korea knew about the match-fixing (although for how long isn’t clear), and attempted to resolve the issue themselves before actually discussing “the possibility of co-existing with the illegal betting sites.”
As easy as this story is to dismiss as “haha, South Koreans are so crazy about their gaming,” it’s worth keeping in mind that real money was at stake, and a professional gaming culture still hangs in the balance: Hopefully, officials will be able to arrive at a solution to restore the integrity of StarCraft and ensure that this doesn’t happen again, in South Korea or anywhere.