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Betting scandal hits Korean StarCraft

Pro gamers accused of throwing matches.

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Image credit: Eurogamer

The world's biggest e-sports scene - competitive StarCraft in South Korea - has been rocked by a betting scandal.

It's alleged that several top players, along with coaching staff, have been rigging the results of matches in collaboration with illegal gambling sites.

A post on the forums of long-standing StarCraft clan Team Liquid has brought the story to attention in the West, linking through to many articles in Korean. It's summarised by Kotaku and GamePron.

The players and coaches under suspicion have not been officially named, although GamePron cites a post pointing the finger at a number of leading players including former BlizzCon champion sAviOr, a.k.a. Ja Mae Yoon.

Leading teams have been accused of intentionally losing matches and leaking information to gambling syndicates. It's said the operation began in 2006 and hit its peak in 2008. sAviOr had a notable run of bad form in the 2007 and 2008 seasons.

Retired pro gamers are said to have made the initial contact between the gambling organisations and the teams. Match commentators and reporters are also said to be involved, while team coaches are alleged to have accepted money for changing their team's line-ups.

Teams are currently taking measures to clean up the scandal, forcing the offending coaches and players to leave, or even retire from the sport.

Competitive StarCraft is big business in South Korea, with games televised and players achieving fame, sponsorship and sizeable prize money. Playing Blizzard's strategy game at the top level requires both tactical nous and physical fitness, with extremely fast reflexes needed to micro-manage units and input up to five actions every second.

The scandal comes on the eve of the release of StarCraft II - due by the end of June this year - as Blizzard gambles on migrating what's almost a national sport over to a new game after ten years of domination. One way or another, it seems there'll be a changing of the guard in the Korean StarCraft leagues soon.

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