TaeJa takes MLG Summer Arena Crown
Team Liquid's 17-year-old phenom Yoon "TaeJa" Young Suh earned his first major Starcraft II title at this past weekend's Major League Gaming Summer Arena, the first event of the MLG 2012 Summer Season. Liquid's Korean Terran earned the team's first 2012 title, taking out Team Slayers' Yang "Alicia" Joon Sik, the Protoss who has now finished second at three straight major events including the MLG Spring Championships and North American StarLeague Season 3 finals.
"This is my first time winning a big tournament so I'm really happy," TaeJa told GameSpot shortly after winning. "I wasn't expecting to win this weekend, but coming to this event, instead of getting knocked out and go touring around New York City, I wanted to go as far as I could. Winning was a surprise and makes me feel good."
TaeJa: "I didn't have any specific strategy."
Alicia made his breakout performance and first final appearance at the star-studded Anaheim event. After an incredible run over three days, he lost a rather one-sided final against Park "DongRaeGu" Soo Ho. Similarly, at last weekend's NASL Finals, he fought his way to the end only to be swept by Frenchman Ilyes "Stephano" Satouri. Alicia's fight against TaeJa was the closest one yet, as strong timing attacks helped him win two maps--more than his combined wins against those Zerg champions. TaeJa put the hammer down in the final game with an early bunker contain, followed by a full five-medivac drop on Alicia's main, securing the win.
"I saw Alicia losing two finals in a row against DRG and Stephano, so I wanted to make that happen a third time," TaeJa said with a smirk. "I didn't have any specific strategy, but when I was playing against First in the semifinals, I decided just to macro up on two bases. So when I played against Alicia, I proxied fast-Marauder, which is the strategy I saved for the final. I didn't want to show this during my games against First. After I won that initial game against Alicia, I felt I had control of the final."
While all of this was happening, MLG CEO Sundance DiGiovanni was telling me why they decided to switch from PPV to a free model. "Somebody has to pay. It's either us, advertisers, sponsors, or the community," he said. "I want the community to be the last line in defense in that equation."
The community has been asked to pay for services and content like never before, as nearly every major competitive gaming league now has some sort of payment option. This includes a variety of services, such as a higher-quality viewing experience, usually in HD formats. Recently, spectator chat was disabled at the Evolution Fighting Game Championships unless you paid, and on occasion--such as at previous MLG Arena events--all content is behind a PPV wall. MLG's switch to free content for the Arena opens up more doors for the eSports consumer who increasingly faces tough decisions on which content to pay for.
KeSPA Stars Can't Stand With Starcraft II's Best
While Korean players took the first four spots of the MLG Summer Arena, Blizzard's World Championship Series qualifiers hit the home of Starcraft, marking the first time that the current Starcraft II player generation would square off against the recently transitioned KeSPA Brood War players. Back in May of last year, journalists and fans alike speculated on what would happen when the seasoned KeSPA players--with better training facilities and practice on a "harder" game--were to switch over. The players said it would probably take six months to a year before they could be their best and match the current top-tier Starcraft II players.
We got our first glimpse of that this past weekend, with results both surprising and expected. Fifteen of the 16 qualifier spots went to the current crop of GSL-bred Starcraft II players, with only one KeSPA player qualifying in the end: Terran player Kim "Reality" Ki Hyun of Samsung KHAN. Reality did what no other KeSPA player was able to, beating two of the best players in the game in Zerg king Kang "Symbol" Dong Hyu and Complexity's Kim "Heart" Min Hyuk. Woongjin Stars' Kim "ZerO" Myung Woon and SK Telecom's Doh "BeSt" Jae Wook made the final of their bracket, but were eliminated by Kim "Hack" Young Il and Ahn "Happy" Ho Jin, respectively.
Along with the qualifiers, KeSPA has been given six invites based on the win percentages of the current season of ProLeague, along with the Top 10 players with GSL points. This includes Lee "Jaedong" Jae Dong, Kim "EffOrt" Jung Woo, and Kim "Soulkey" Min Chul from KeSPA's side, along with Jung "MVP" Jong Hyun, Won "PartinG" Lee Sak, and Park "Squirtle" Hyun Woo from the GSL, for a total of 32 players in WCS Korea. Although the next season of ProLeague will only feature Starcraft II, we won't have to wait until then to see the battle we've all been waiting for.
GSL and GSTL Head to the Finals
The GomTV StarLeague heads into the finals for both the individual Code S league and the Team league. The Code S Semifinals finished off last week with SK Gaming's Boss Toss Jang "MC" Min Chul's surprisingly dominant performance over MLG Anaheim Champion Park "DongRaeGu" Soo Ho, sweeping the powerful Zerg out of the GSL 3-0. MC will now look to win his third GSL title, an accomplishment achieved only by Incredible Miracle teammates MVP and Lim "NesTea" Jae Duk. To do so, he will have to go through MVP and NesTea teammate Ahn "Seed" Sang Won, making his first appearance in a GSL Code S final. This is already Seed's greatest achievement thus far in Starcraft II, and he has a great opportunity to make a name for himself here and step out of the shadows of the two men with seven GSL titles combined. Whatever the case may be, we will have our first Protoss GSL Code S champion in nine seasons since MC won the title in March 2011.
The Team league finals are now set between the hybrid Evil Geniuses/SlayerS team and FXOpen. The EG/SlayerS mix took out Team SCV Life in the semifinals after strong play from Zerg Choi "CoCa" Jong Hwan, who took out TSL's Choi "Polt" Seong Hoon, Woo "Inori" Min Gyu, and Ko "HyuN" Seok Hyun in succession. On the other side, MLG 2011 Providence Champion Lee "Leenock" Dong Nyoung pulled his team out of a 4-2 hole to win three in a row, including a final game against DongRaeGu to clinch FXO's spot at the finals in Busan.
Watch VODs of the GSL 2012 Season 2 GSTL Semifinals.
The GSL Finals will take place this Friday, July 27th, with the GSTL finals the next day on Saturday, July 28th. Both can be watched for free through GOMTV.net.
ESWC Announces Game List and PAX Prime Showing
The Electronic Sports World Cup has released the games, date, and location of their 2012 event. Official titles include Starcraft II, Dota 2, FIFA Soccer 13, Tekken Tag Tournament 2, TrackMania Nations, and ShootMania Storm. Besides the official competitions, promotional titles will also be on display, including one that will also have international qualifiers: Counter-Strike: Global Offensive. This will be the first year in the event's history that Counter-Strike 1.6 or Counter-Strike: Source will not be featured as an official title.
The ESWC 2012 World Finals will be held during Paris Games Week between October 31 and November 4. Although good for the French competitive community and press, the event falls on the same date as the MLG Fall Championships in Dallas, Texas. Because of this, Starcraft II competition will probably be scarce. This might also be one of the reasons ESWC did not announce League of Legends as a featured title.
For those Americans looking to qualify for the finals in Paris, or just wanting to watch the action, ESWC has also announced that the North American qualifiers will happen this year at Pax Prime in Seattle. The only games featured will be Starcraft II, Dota 2, and CS:GO. Following ESWC's recent return with its business practice under a magnifying glass, many people including myself will be keeping an eye out on how the CS:GO competition develops, and if the long-standing professional CS 1.6 teams will compete. Players have been extremely split on this issue, and the situation is likely to heat up when the game comes out of beta.