Have you ever imagined what life would be like if esports was as popular as football?
Around the World: Esports in South Korea
South Korea is without a doubt one of the most powerful players in the esports industry – almost all popular esports have a strong presence of South Korean players among their top players. Esports in South Korea play a big role culturally, too – the esports scene is as much a national sport as football is in Italy.
A global phenomenon
Despite being relatively small, geographically speaking, South Korea hasn’t had any trouble dominating large parts of the esports world. Statistics show that over half of the 51 or so million people that live there play video games – that’s leagues above comparable countries.
The contributing factors are mostly cultural – similar to other Asian nations, there is a high pressure on young people to succeed academically, and video games and esports are considered a positive way to unwind from that stress there.
Where in the West, there is often prejudice against esports as a waste of time, the attitude in Asia is quite different. Esports in South Korea is viewed as a perfectly acceptable hobby and have long since become part of even high school and college education. While not all Korean schools support video games as a subject, many do – and careers in the esports industry are viewed not unlike how one might view a career in media management. This is starting to be a thing throughout Asia.
This grassroots approach of normalizing the esports industry and fostering talent and skills related to esports in South Korea leads to a lot of skilled players with years and years of experience competing against Western teenagers that only recently picked up the hobby – it’s no wonder that many esports leagues are dominated by Korean players.
Other differences include the way esports players that find success are treated. Since esports in South Korea is viewed as a national pastime, popular players will get the same kind of sponsorship contracts a footballer might get – they appear in ads, promote products, and so on.
Their well-being is also a bigger focus for organizations – South Korea is one of the leading forces in the fight for fair and healthy work environments and contracts for esports pros. The country was one of the first to address this issue and even founded the International Esports Federation or IESF.
A different environment
What’s worth noting is that while a lot of popular esports see Korean talent flock into the pro scene, in the country itself, esports has a different face. While games like League of Legends or Overwatch are popular, StarCraft II is also one of the top titles – something that can’t be said about the West.
In general, RTS titles and similar strategy games tend to be popular there in general – and esports in South Korea occupies a far bigger role than they do in the West.
Stay tuned as we examine the state of esports in different parts of the world here, at EarlyGame!