The Brood War community has recently heard the good news that the OnGameNet Starleague (OSL) would be returning. Previously operated by BJ Sonic at his own expense, the 10th season of the Sonic Starleague would be jointly held together with OGN.
Known as BJ Sonic, Hwang Hyojin started hosting online Brood War leagues in 2006. In 2009, Sonic started the Sonic Starleague (SSL) series and held its inaugural season. The SSL has been operating consistently and continues to this day. Although most Brood War players transitioned to StarCraft 2, many eventually retired and returned to participate in the SSLs. Killer won the 7th and 8th seasons, Bisu proved his supremacy by dominating the 9th and official Brood War competition lived on.
Sonic surprised his fans when he revealed that the 10th season would be aired on OnGameNet. Today, we met the Brood War enthusiast Hwang Hyojin for an interview.
◆ Double life
Although Sonic made a name for himself as a Brood War streamer, he is now the CEO of a fashion company. He started his business by opening an online shopping mall called Sinbalfarm (Shoefarm) but his passion for Brood War continued as he lived the double life of a businessmen and gamer.
"As you are probably all aware, I used to be a broadcasting jockey (BJ) before serving my mandatory military service. I was active on the Afreeca streaming platform, but also at OGN's channel called Playple. In my prime, I had to leave for the military service, but was able to spend my time there envisioning many business plans. After I was discharged, I opened an online shopping mall and made some money."
While operating his business, Sonic couldn't forget his days as a BJ. During the day, he did his best to manage his business and in the evening, he put on the BJ Sonic mask. He gathered amateur players and organized the first online SSL, using the earnings from his business as prize money.
With the end of official Brood War competition with the 2012 Tving OSL, Sonic felt great regret. "It was a shame that the careers of highly skilled Brood War progamers had ended and they were forced to play SC2. Many of the players were unable to adapt to the new game and retired one by one, which was also sad to see. So I decided to raise the scale of my competition."
Starting with the 7th season, more prominent players participated and the league grew in scale. It now started with 32 players (as opposed to the 24 of SSL 5) and many big names like Movie, Sea, Killer and HiyA joined one by one. Then, in the 9th season, Bisu and ZerO participated, with Bisu and hero facing one another in the finals to create a lot of excitement. As the finals of the Starleague were played offline, the fans could now see their heroes in person.
"Any time I organized a Brood War competition, I could sense that there were still many fans in love with the game. Living the uneasy double life, I felt rewarded for all the work I put in."
◆ The Starleague full of joy and sorrow
Hosting the Starleagues by himself for nine seasons, Sonic faced many difficulties. Responsible for the players' salaries and prize money, he continued in spite of difficulties. Many advised him to forget about the leagues and focus his time and energy on the business. "Truthfully, the business faced some hardships. We imported lots of goods from one brand but they wouldn't sell. We were at great loss and couldn't even settle on a proper payment, but even then I couldn't abandon the SSL."
Sonic's passion for the SSL was incredible. Business was business and the Sonic Starleague was the Sonic Starleague.
"The country's leading conglomerate once wanted to support the SSL. But just before competition started, the sponsor withdrew and I had to use my business earnings. The staff advised me to postpone the SSL, but I couldn't break my promise to the fans. At the time, the business didn't really have much money so I had to take a bank loan to continue operating the SSL. At that time, we were doing everything we could to find another sponsor. As a result, we secured Itembay and FIX as the sponsors for the 8th and 9th seasons of the SSL, respectively."
◇ Sonic's fashion brand SBENU aims high and has been successful enough to have this Hongdae (region in Seoul) building as their own.
◆ Convincing OGN
After Bisu won SSL 9 in March 2014, Sonic spent some time focusing on his business. Keeping his online shopping mall Sinbalfarm operating was important, but he was also looking to extend his business by creating his own fashion brand, SBENU.
"Sinbalfarm originally offered traditional brands like Nike or New Balance, but with SBENU, the design, production and sales all come from me. Rather than selling other people's shoes, I felt selling my own would be more meaningful."
SBENU is a new brand, but it has already become popular among teens and those in their twenties, enabling its sales to reach the skies. Without revealing exact sales figures, it's common to see young people wearing SBENU shoes on the streets. SBENU is also aggressively marketing the brand, having recently signed up Song Jaerim, a popular actor, and even IU, a famous female singer, alongside AOA, a Kpop girl group.
"The ultimate goal of my business is to be profitable, but there was also my strong desire to revive Brood War Starleague and its popularity through the means of OnGameNet. With MBCGame closing, nostalgic Brood War fans would want to see the game aired on OGN. I also share the sentiment."
With Sonic's SBENU brand becoming successful and news of continued preparation of SSL 10, OGN was impressed. Kim Carrier, who commentated SSL 8 and 9, acted as the intermediary in negotiations as OGN decided to host SSL 10. Sonic readily agreed to co-sponsor the SSL. As a result, after a two year break since the 2012 Tving Starleague, OnGameNet's Starleague will return.
◆ The Dream ★ lives on
In 2015, the OnGameNet SBENU Starleague will air on OGN starting with the Round of 16 and Sonic's biggest dreams will have come true. And to top it off, at the finals of the SSL 10, the superstar IU will perform.
Jamsil Gymnasim, credit
But Sonic's dream doesn't stop here. He wants to recreate his memories of the Tving OSL. Fondly remembering the crowd of fans that filled Jamsil Gymnasium, Sonic set a goal for himself: to revive Brood War. "I want to show people that Brood War isn't over. Starting with the SSL on OGN, I want to keep raising the bar to a point where we can host the finals in the Jamsil Gymnasium. It may not happen with SSL 10, but can we make it a reality for the 11th or the 12th seasons?"
After SSL 9 ended, Sonic decided not to cast the next season. He enjoyed interacting with fans through his broadcasts, but to increase the production quality, he decided to step back from the front line. Expanding his business to be more successful enabled Sonic to give the fans an even better and more enjoyable experience. "You may not see BJ Sonic in the upcoming SSL anymore. But as the CEO of SBENU, I will work even harder to ensure the Brood War Starleague can continue."
Asked if he'll go see the SSL 10 matches personally, Sonic revealed: "I think I'll only attend the finals. I'll keep an eye out on the broadcasted matches while working in my office. Continuing to build my business, I'll work hard to make sure the Brood War Starleague doesn't end," he concluded the interview.
[Daily e-Sports Writer Nam Yoon-seong, firstname.lastname@example.org]
Edited by: prech
Translation reviewed by: Scan