The Korean nickname for StarCraft: Brood War is traditional folk game, the term being both a playful dig at its classic antiquity and a reverential nod towards its longevity. At the recent reveal for StarCraft: Remastered, the long-anticipated facelift for the original game, Blizzard said, "If StarCraft was a Korean baby in 1998, the baby would be considered twenty years old now."
The legacy RTS has indeed matured past adolescence, but for countless South Korean gamers, Brood War has always been and will be their baby, 4K UHD touch-up or not. Last month, BW boasted a higher share of the PC Bang market than World of Warcraft, Diablo 3, StarCraft II and Heroes of the Storm combined. And it's not because of a recent resurgence; the standings have been this way for quite some time.
Even more impressive is that on AfreecaTV -- the country's largest streaming platform -- Brood War is by far the most lucrative game to broadcast: five out of the six gaming streamers made the top 30 on last month's donations rankings. It's expected that with such an environment already in place, StarCraft: Remastered will be an instant success.
Supporters of the peninsula's already fragile StarCraft II scene, however, are finding as much reason for concern as for excitement. They worry the release of Remastered may significantly hurt SCII, as there are only so many spectator hours in a day and sponsor money to go around. With rumors circulating of more SCII players considering a Brood War return, the unease does not seem to be without reason.
Interestingly enough, there is also a minority of voices that believe StarCraft: Remastered will be a flop. Their explanation? SC:R wouldn't have fresh appeal to fans who were never into Brood War. Chiding those in the industry for overselling the release's significance, these pessimists maintain that Brood War will fail to attract new blood, doomed to slowly but surely wither alongside its aging stars.
Regarding these points of contention and more, longtime StarCraft II and Brood War commentator Wolf Schroeder -- hailing from Seoul -- shared his insights with ESPN.
"[StarCraft: Remastered] will be bigger in Korea, but it doesn't mean that StarCraft II will fade away immediately," he said.
While SCII was never as popular as Brood War amongst Koreans, there was always a scene for it. BW had the lengthier history, but its sequel also amassed a wealth of storied heroes over the years; their skill and narratives will continue to interest viewers, he argued. "I think the [star players] will continue to play the game, and [their] fans will continue to watch."
The caster also doubted the possibility of a sizable exodus from SCII to BW, as only a select few would have any chance to overcome the mile head start that BW legends built up over a decade. Unless you were already great at Brood War before StarCraft II even became a thing, Wolf believes, you will have little hope of matching the veterans. Ever.
"I can't imagine a mid-to-low tier player jumping into the hyper-competitve resurgance of StarCraft: Remastered and succeeding without Brood War experience," he added. "That being said, if the game [becomes] big enough, and there's incentive enough, some players might try."
On SC:R's potential appeal to completely new players, Wolf again took a relatively cautious perspective. A good chunk of the excitement over the facelift is due to nostalgia, after all. A sentiment that greenhorns simply cannot enjoy.
"For me, [Brood War] brings a ton of memories of simpler times. I really miss the old OSL, MSL, Proleague days, and I hope that Remastered brings more leagues for the new generation to enjoy," he said. "For the west and for younger gamers, [however], the game still looks and feels old, and the difficulty of doing simple tasks may be a big turn-off for first-timers."
There's also the problem of the esports' competitive history being entirely rooted in South Korea. To older western fans, the nation's dominant presence is simply a source of endless jokes. For the audience Blizzard will be hoping to pull in anew, however, this may function as a strong reason to ignore the game entirely.
Such concerns may be unnecessarily hasty, of course. There is enough reason to believe SC:R will be received with a bang in South Korea, but uncertainty remains over whether the title will also succeed in creating a new generation it desperately needs.
Wolf put it very succinctly, "I love watching Flash vs Jaedong as much as anyone, but in five years, who will take their place?"
It's one of those questions with no actual solution. How much developer money will be injected? How many non-endemic sponsors will want in? How many veterans will relight their old competitive fire, and how many rising amateurs will be brave enough to gamble their own lives on whether those legends are mortal?
Ideally, the game will take off in South Korea, garner a massive playerbase, and lead to teams springing up to house aspiring newcomers determined to break through qualifiers. Things will have to initially barrel forward that far for it to further snowball. After all, StarCraft II's underwhelming history in the mecca of esports is testament to a now certain fact in gaming -- no amount of artificial support will ever create long-term sustainability.
"Will SC:R see the same famed heroes clash repeatedly until the game is 'dead'? I hope not," said Schroeder. "I hope in five years we're watching a Korean Starleague finals with two players that right now no one has ever heard of."