Game Development Reference
rooms. Eventually the culture crossed a tipping point where it became a
typical social activity for young people to hang out for hours in PC bangs
with their friends.
The PC bang snowball alone would have made the game popular, but
it wouldn't have made it into a minor national sport. The final element
that pushed StarCraft over the top was the gaming television channels that
sprung up around the game. But these gaming channels didn't appear
from nothing. The traditional Asian board game Go already had a huge
following in Korea, and several channels were dedicated to it. The Go
channels meant that it wasn't a huge leap to create a channel dedicated to
video games. Had there been no Go channels, the StarCraft channels may
never have appeared.
The snowball effect accelerated—the PC bang culture, new broadband
infrastructure, a minor economic recession that made cheap entertainment
attractive, and television channels all mutually reinforced one another into
a sustained cultural phenomenon. None of these factors was predicted,
and none could have been. All of them are outside typical market models.
But they came together and made the game into a megahit.
And even this nicely packaged story is a vast and possibly mislead-
ing oversimplification. Even now, nobody is clear on the importance of
these various factors in StarCraft 's meteoric rise in Korea. What if the
country hadn't been in a recession? What if the government didn't roll out
broadband in the mid-1990s? What if StarCraft had been a fantasy game,
or a realistic game? We can only guess, even after the fact. The story tells
nicely, but it's anyone's guess how well it really matches the billions of
individual economic decisions that formed the Korean StarCraft miracle.
Had the game been released a year earlier or later, it might have been
merely another popular game from Blizzard. People might have played it,
loved it, and moved on. It would have made a profit and been called a great
success, and nobody would have ever known how close it came to becom-
ing more than just a game in a small Asian republic.
On these kinds of utterly unpredictable cultural phenomena, screen-
writer William Goldman once shouted, “Nobody knows anything!”
Goldman spent his life watching executives, writers, and directors try and
fail to predict the box office performance of films. So it is with games.
While we can use models to do better than nothing, we can't forget that the
world is more complex than any market research study.
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