The largest scandal in e-sports history is currently unfolding in Korea, with revelations that a number of current pro gamers are involved with match set-ups and illegal betting.
While the gamers are un-named at this point, the story is said to touch many A-list StarCraft celebrities – including sAviOr, Ja Mae Yoon – one of the best-known and most successful players of all time.
UPDATE MAY 18th:
16 people have now been implicated in the scandal – three brokers, two individuals who “used inside information” to place bets, and a whopping eleven current and former pro-gamers. Who else is involved?
At this stage, we hear that various pro gamers have been found intentionally losing matches, as well as leaking their team’s replay files to illegal gambling groups.
The teams involved are currently naming and shaming offending members, in some cases forcing the more serious cheaters to retire from the game. Various gamers are also being investigated, with many denying charges before eventually admitting their involvement.
The story has been likened to the 1919 Black Sox scandal, which saw eight members of the Chicago White Sox World Series team intentionally losing several games – giving the series to the Cincinnati Reds. While we’re not sure if this new story has quite the same links to the underworld, it’s an interesting comparison.
According to Korean sources, the drama all started several years ago – in 2006 – and exploded properly in 2008, when the betting sites started to contact various players inquiring about rigging their matches. Apparently, retired pro gamers, a former pro gamer coach, a former match announcer and a pro gaming scene reporter brought out their address books and contact lists to play a large part in the deals being made. Coaching staff and camp directors are also implicated, allegedly taking money for charging player entry fees.
…even more sinister: E-sports organisers allegedly knew about the situation and had attempted to solve the issue themselves, with the illegal businesses going further underground. A closed conference even saw the organisers discussing the possibility of co-existing with the illegal betting sites.
As part of Korea’s human rights laws, it is illegal to release criminals’ names – they can only be implied – which means that as the police have now gotten involved, we may never be officially told who was involved in this drama. Unofficially, however, it’s only a matter of time before fingers are pointed and pro gamers find themselves without a job.
“Blacklists” of players have been posted and taken down from the internet – we found a reportedly translated version which names most of the current major StarCraft pro gamers in Korea as being currently under investigation.
Myung Soo (Yarnc), Chan Soo (Luxury), Sang Ho (SangHo), Jung Woo (EffOrt), Yong Hwa (Movie), Jae Yoon (sAviOr), Taek Yong (Bisu), Byong Goo (Stork), Jae Wook (BeSt), il Jang (hero), Myung Hoon (fantasy), Heui Seung (UpMaGiC), Jae Dong (Jaedong), Sang Moon (Leta), Jong Seo (Justin), Chang Hee (go.go)
With both sAviOr and EffOrt previously BlizzCon champions, Who knows, this year’s convention could have a whole new collection of StarCraft competitors!
We’ll be keeping an eye on this one, and will let you know as things grow and change.