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Original Article (Daily eSports)
[People] BJ Sonic "My league will run until Brood War ends"
Sonic Starleague Organizer Hwang Hyo-Jin (Sonic)
"The love I receieved as a Broadcast Jockey (BJ)...running the league I wish to return it"
With the end of the tving OSL final at Jamsil Student Gymnasium in August 2012, the last StarCraft: Brood War (henceforth referred to as BW) exclusive league final concluded. One month later, the Proleague final featured both BW and StarCraft 2: Wings of Liberty (hereafter SC2), but for BW fans, their last individual league final had already ended.
Although not officially recognized by KESPA, throughout various internet channels BW leagues are happening. At the center is the most popular BW league, the Sonic Starleague on AfreecaTV. Starting with the first league in 2010, currently on the eight league, they have brought on official sponsors and continue to grow in scale.
Consistently pulling over ten thousand concurrent viewers, the Sonic Starleague continues to spur the excitement of BW fans. On June 1st they will be holding their finals at Kwangwoon University Auditorium. I met with the organizer, Hwang Hyo-Jin. Among the fans, he is better known as the BJ Sonic.
The individual league which happened by chance
Sonic did not always plan on running a BW league. He was one of many gamers enjoying BW. Recognized as a BW gosu among his friends, with their recommendation he started an internet broadcast channel.
"BW has many different strategies. Learning to play the three races, Zerg, Terran, and Protoss, I also researched strategies. After using a creative build on my friends a few times, they recommended I show it off on Afreeca saying that it would be popular."
The beginning was playful. Grabbing an opponent from the lobby he started showing off various strategies and tactics, commenting on and explaining his strategy while he played. Instead of speaking like a teacher giving a lecture, he gained gamers' empathy by just acting like a teenage fan.
"I was one of many new successful internet channels. I would get around 1-2000 live viewers. Through that I slowly gained fame."
To the capitol, PlayPle, and military service
Sonic received a call from a viewer affiliated with the media. The now-defunct media player GameKorea was preparing a channel and wanted to work with him. In 2006, in his third year of high school, Sonic hastily moved to Seoul.
The beginning was a success. E-sports affiliates watching Sonic's play on the internet came to like him. OnGameNet even gave him a small program to promote himself. Some media outlets requested interviews from him. That was the moment Sonic's name became known to the world.
Along with NiceGameTV, which made various shows for the new game League of Legends, SonicTV was one of Playple's mainstays. NiceGameTV's main focus was WarCraft 3 while Sonic brought in BW viewers. However, even though they pulled in viewers, Playple failed and after undergoing maintenance for two years was terminated. Sonic entered the military in September of 2008. It seemed he had achieved some things and gained some awareness along the way.
"I though there wasn't any hope in just running a personal internet channel. Although there were viewers, I didn't see a way to directly convert that into revenue. Then the I was summoned and went to the military. While I was in the military, Playple disappeared."
I will make a league with my own money
During his two years in the military, Sonic planned to start his own business. This was due to his experience with the difficulty of making a living as an internet BJ. Organizing his thoughts during his service, Sonic opened an internet shopping mall "SinbalFarm" with the money he had saved before going to the military.
"I kept having thoughts about BW leagues. I wanted to make a platform where online amateur gosus could gather and gain recognition in order to become progamers. In order to do so they would need money for entry and transportation, as well as a stage to play on. More than anything, I needed money. I decided to sponsor a league by myself."
Thus, the 2010 online Sonic Starleague began. Without receiving any outside help, and with the hardheaded determination to make a league on his own, Sonic ran his league continuously for two years, which grew to the point where the 2012 finals were held in the Kongkuk University Millenial Auditorium.
"During those times, all costs came out of my pocket. Of the profits from the online shopping mall, I would deposit a portion for the tournament expenses. Sometimes I did feel unhappy that the profits from the store went to fund the league, when they could have been invested in the success of the business instead."
When people asked why he kept running the league, he would answer, "In order to repay a favor" (T/N: 결초보은 means to repay kindness even after death). He ran his business under the name Huang Hyo-Jin, but the blood of Sonic still flowed within him.
The Ever Successful Sonic Starleague
The stage was set for the seventh Sonic Starleague final. In late 2012 when Sonic announced the offline finals, he received a call from Blizzard Entertainment. He was told that since he had not obtained the proper permissions, the league was not allowed to open.
"It was completely out of the blue. In the 6 tournaments run since 2010 I never came across this issue. Since those all took place online, I don't think Blizzard paid much attention to them either. Since the seventh finals was offline they said they had to sanction it."
Although Sonic sent e-mails back and forth with Blizzard to receive the necessary permissions, things were not resolved easily. With various announcements published and arguments happening, Mike Morhaime tweeted that they would allow the finals to happen, resolving the situation.
"I was very thankful, and it was a good learning experience. Those of us sponsoring the tournment did not realize that there would be IP issues. Although we knew there were agreements between KESPA and Blizzard, we did not think they applied to us as well. Through the experience of the seventh finals, we learned a lot."
Perhaps through the great success of the seventh finals, the eighth Sonic Starleague found a sponsor. ItemBay offered to invest in the league. Although not the hundreds of millions of Won (T/N: 100M Won ~ 100K USD) which backed the OSL or MSL, it was still evidence of the Sonic Starleague's success.
"ItemBay gave us strength. The fact that an online league can find a sponsor has great value."
Itembay's sponsorship was not the only accomplishment. BW commentators Kim Tae-Hyung (Kim Carrier) and Lee Seung-Won also joined the project, as did the popular Stargirls Seo Yeon-Ji and Choe Eun-Eh. In order to hold the matches offline, the stage and booths were constructed. The success is far beyond that of even the seventh final.
On June 1st, come visit Kwangwoon University
The eighth Itembay Sonic Starleague shocked e-sports fans, planning to hold their finals May 18th in the Songpa-gu Jamsil Student Gymnasium. The possibility that an online league could happen in the same place as the last Starleague made some fans doubtful. There was support both for and against it.
"Truthfully we had already made the arrangements, but there were more who advised us not to be too ambitious. If we did not fill the gymnasium it would be a big loss, and if we did, it would raise expectations for the next time even higher."
Sonic took the advice to heart. He moved the final to Kwangwoon University Auditorium, and rescheduled the date to June 1st. Changing the already-announced time and date for the final was not easy. He was very sorry to the fans.
"The Sonic Starleague will not end with the eighth. With the experiences up until now we will move forward with the poise our fans expect. We and the players will devote ourselves until the day all of the servers close. With the support of the people who love BJ Sonic, I will trust in myself and the players and together we will do our best to bring an even better league to the fans.
[Original article by DailyeSports Nam Yoon-Sung email@example.com]