South Koreans don't like Korean Americans

A look at South Korea - when eSports become a popular sport

Esports are getting huge. One more reason to look to South Korea, where professional computer games have already arrived in the midst of fully digitized society. However, this also has dystopian-looking consequences ...

Some heard about it from their children, others from the news - very few Germans really have contact with eSports. One thinks. One thought, 2015. Four years later, the market can no longer be marginalized: 1 billion worldwide sales forecast for 2019 (rising to 1.7 by 2022) and 200 million regular viewers (with occasional viewers 453 million) are values that many classic sports have long since failed to achieve. At the beginning of November, the streaming record was just broken with almost 4 million viewers (excluding the huge Chinese market, rumored to have 50 to 80 million viewers there) for the World Cup semi-finals in League of Legends.

The fantasy game, LoL for short, is the largest game in the world with almost 100 million players. The most successful player and considered by many to be the best Lee Sang-Hyeok (called "Faker") Earns around three million dollars a year (plus around 2 million other income) and plays for the South Korean Telecom team. SK Telekom has been a long-term sponsor of the scene, as has Samsung, for example - but the freshest sponsorship deals of the last two years are also tough.

A small selection of the most exciting sponsorship deals no longer reads like a niche market at all. Coke, Mercedes Benz, Red Bull, MC Donalds, Disney or PayPal global partner of various games. Red Bull and Nike have already signed individual athletes personally (the Chinese Jian "Uzi" Zi-Hao has already appeared in commercials with the best basketball player of our time: LeBron James!). Nike, champion, Adidas and puma have signed equipment contracts and all automakers join the long list.

Recently, a new dimension of partnerships was announced: League of Legends x Louis Vuitton.

LV has special here Clothing sets made for a hip-hop crew within the world of virtual characters, as well as a case for the world champion trophy. The fact that such a prestigious brand is investing in this area perhaps most clearly shows that eSports is slowly moving out of the dirty corner.

Today we see a huge industry in front of us, the players of which are slowly emerging from the shadows of their gamer caves and are being perceived by society. Are these gamers athletes? Difficult question. In most of the games, the players compete in teams on a field and have to defeat the other team through fine motor and strategic individual and / or group performances. These teams and players develop characteristic ways of playingthat are recognized by fans and their Recognition value are the basis for a following.

A Lionel Messi plays football differently than a Cristiano Ronaldo and Brazilian offensive magic is fundamentally different from the fighting and defensive football of England. This is where the first advanced points of contact for brand cooperations can be found: For example, would I rather appear next to the innovative, young jokers or next to the long-established veterans who act with experienced rip-offs? Playing is not just playing.

Deep Dive: South Korea - the Mecca of eSports:

LoL professional Lee "Faker" Sang-Hyeuk is a superstar in South Korea - he has groupies who prepare themselves for an autograph session similar to rock stars, plus talk shows and advertising deals for television and out-of-home advertising. According to Nielsen Korea, eSports is the second after soccer and baseball third most popular sport of the young people there, there are also several pure (!) eSports stadiums and to buy jerseys & merchandising in all kinds of stores. According to studies, South Korea is the sixth largest market for video games in the world with 25 million players. To a good 50 million inhabitants, that means every second plays. Awesome.

What does such a country look like and what is the reason for this unusual orientation?

There are exactly three answers to the latter:

#1 Between 1995 and 1998, the Korean government invested heavily in the Expansion of fiber optic Internet throughout the country. Most Koreans live in densely populated, urban areas. Today, South Korea has the fastest internet speed in the world.

#2 The fiber optic Internet created infrastructure, but hardly anyone owned a high-end computer - the result was the so-called "PC bangs"(With" a "sound, instead of an English" bang "with" e "/" ä "), a kind of social internet cafe with a focus on games instead of surfing as we know it.

#3 In South Korea there is not a great tradition or history in organized sports. Most of them were brought by the Americans after the Korean War, but parks and the like rarely have soccer, baseball or basketball courts because the western sports did not really become popular.

The estimated 25,000 PC bangs Koreas are unique worldwide in this form, because they combine the community feeling of the arcade halls with the hospitality of a small restaurant. Interested parties (often schoolchildren and students) can play on high-quality devices for extremely little money, and their friends can also meet up with their friends in these places - sometimes in the evenings to “go out” as Alternative to cinema or bar.

Today it is estimated that there are around in South Korea 10 million people interested in eSports and the mentioned up to 25 million gamers. In surveys of dream jobs among schoolchildren, the career aspiration "eSportsman" is ranked 8th, ahead of, for example, "scientist". Computers are an elementary part of living together, as was already the case in April Comprehensive 5G network put into operation - Germany still has problems with 4G / LTE.

In such a country, the realities and problems are, as expected, completely different. It has existed since 2011 "Cinderella Law"that prevents under-16s from playing between midnight and 6 a.m. How can this be checked? To create an account, the Social ID number registered, so gambling is monitored by the state. Addictive colorful worlds of color & game principles and the possibility of playful success, wealth and fame are two mutually stimulating components that make gaming palatable to almost everyone. In any case, South Korean children hardly ever spend any time outside; according to a study, 3- to 9-year-olds only walk outside the door for an average of 34 minutes a day.

The legislation has also been renewed in line with the development, for example virtual insults (thanks to the Social ID) can be prosecuted with fines and the "Boosting“(If a good player takes money to improve his rank by pretending to be him online) can get a prison sentence of up to 2 years and $ 18,000 fine be occupied. The digital space is therefore by no means an impenetrable jungle like in Germany, at least this is what we are trying to achieve.

With the presence of computer games in society, new socio-cultural mechanisms inevitably follow, as they were previously only known from dystopia books: The Rankthat the player will gain in the game, defines them in a way. Having the lowest rank in the circle of friends is a real reason to be ashamed and to try harder / to close the gap with even more diligence. One reason for this is that in Korean culture, winning and competing are already deeply rooted in the school system and the often strict parental homes. So it can be said at this point: South Koreans live, in a worldwide comparison, an immense part of their life in computer-specific environments, especially those in which they can playfully compete with each other.

With the success of Fortnite the synergy of real and virtual life and the pop cultural relevance of gaming spills over to other cultures. According to studies, 71% of American Fortnite players say that "all or most of their real-life friends" also play Fortnite and 60% that they "have become better friends in real life because of things they did during the Have learned to play ". It is at least questionable whether Europe / Germany or America will ever have the party-like sessions that friend groups in Korea repeat every day in the PC-Bangs. The public sniffing is gradually disappearing, but most young Americans or Germans still want to become sports stars or pop stars - perhaps the dream of the next generation is already very different.

Should gaming become Olympic, South Korea will definitely move up a few places in the medal table. However, the Chinese are already building an eSports city and will represent the greatest competition in the near future, because in numbers the market there (with 1.4 billion inhabitants soon) is gigantic. But I definitely want to have been to such a PC Bang and have experienced the Korean online culture up close - I just haven't made it to Seoul yet.

Author: Ruben Wehr

Ruben studied business psychology & digital media in Lüneburg. He is particularly interested in visions of the future that can make everyone's life better. Sometimes it can't be revolutionary enough for him. Changing current practices and breaking new ground with a breath of fresh air is something that particularly inspires him.