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Starcraft II’s Korean 18+ Rating Externally Influenced?

22 Apr 2010  by   Paul Younger
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As we reported earlier this month, South Korea’s Game Rating Board deemed Starcraft II unsuitable for those under the age of 18.

Today, Shacknews reports that Blizzard has already appealed that decision. Blizzard PR representative Bob Colayco has told them that the 18+ rating was based on an early build of the game and that a new build has been submitted to “address the Game Ratings Board’?s concerns.”

The chronology of build submissions to the Game Ratings Board is somewhat unclear. As things stand we have information of two ‘early builds’ being put before the Board – one of which was cleared for ages 15 and over. Given the order in which details have emerged, it seems likely that this build was even earlier than the one deemed teen-unfriendly.

So was the sudden change of direction by Korea’s Game Ratings Board due to the inclusion of more adult material in Blizzard’s most recent Starcraft II build, or is there more here than meets the eye?

As noted in the Shacknews story, Blizzard has been involved in a power struggle with the Korean e-Sports Players Association (KeSPA) over control of Starcraft II assets. The broadcasting of Starcraft matches is big business in Korea, and it would clearly be in Blizzard’s interests to wrest control away from KeSPA – who reportedly have close links to broadcasting networks OGN and MBC, and manage licensed e-sports players.

Towards the end of last year, Blizzard were sponsoring rival network GOM, with the rumoured intent to bring all Starcraft II matches to the broadcaster and loosen KeSPA’s grip on the game. KeSPA pulled rank on its professional gamer members, resulting in seven out of twelve Starcraft teams withdrawing from GOM leagues.

There are now suggestions that KeSPA has called in favours from the Game Ratings Board in order to maintain its control on Starcraft broadcasts. Were Starcraft II to be stuck with an 18+ rating in Korea, it could make Blizzard’s efforts to market the game on their own terms far more difficult.

We must stress that ties between KeSPA and the South Korean Game Ratings Board are, at this point, speculation.

To complicate matters further Starcraft has recently been rocked by a huge betting scandal in Korea, encompassing several KeSPA members. Whether this will weaken their position remains to be seen.

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