Jan 8 2014 - 5:00 pm

Second 'StarCraft' star gets athlete visa to play in U.S.

One of the most successful StarCraft 2 players of all time is now officially recognized as an athlete by the United States government
Patrick Howell O'Neill
Dot Esports

One of the most successful StarCraft 2 players of all time is now officially recognized as an athlete by the United States government.

Choi "Polt" Seong Hun, a 25 year old South Korean who is the number three ranked player in the world according to Aligulac rankings, was just granted a P-1A visa, a document reserved for “internationally recognized athletes.”

Fellow-StarCraft pro Kim “Violet” Dong Hwan became the first ever StarCraft 2 player granted such a visa in December.

Both players are represented by Cyber Solutions Agency, which put the majority of legwork into securing the visas. Both took about six months to procure. The CSA produced 500 pages of paperwork while Choi and Kim spent $5,000 on lawyers’ and immigration fees for each application.

Kim and Choi’s visas are symbolic of eSports' movement towards mainstream acceptance, even as they also demonstrate the serious roadblocks still facing the industry. In the comments section of every article covering Kim's visa, discussion focused largely on the semantic question of whether eSports players should be considered “athletes.”

Despite the controversy, this is a big win for both the players and the CSA. Kim and Choi see the time and money spent as an investment in their personal and professional futures. The CSA sees all of it as a good investment in their firm. Their marquee players are making global headlines with their moves—Choi was featured in mainstream outlets like NPR and the Wall Street Journal. That's the best advertising money can buy. And in an industry where most players lack representation, these kinds of unprecedented moves can give a firm significant clout.

“CSA benefits not only from the landmark nature of our achievement in securing [Kim's] visa, but also from the demonstration of consistency in accomplishing it a second time with Choi,” said Andrew Tomlinson, the CSA's owner.

“Now our agency has a working relationship with [U.S.] immigration and their procedures, making us attractive to other foreign talent who would also seek P-1A visa status and managerial representation.”

The American dream

Choi's actually been living in the United States for a full year. He arrived in Dec. 2012 to study english under a F-1 student visa, which required him to go to school 16 hours per week at the University of Texas Austin.

Surprisingly, Choi's arrival in the U.S. had little to do with StarCraft. Early in 2012, he competed in the Lone Star Clash, a major tournament held in Austin, Texas. Choi visited local schools and was impressed with the diversity and culture. He went back home to Korea with a dream of studying English in the States.

Choi’s original plan was to move to the U.S. for a year, learn English, and retire from StarCraft competitions. Then Blizzard, the game’s publisher, announced that the U.S. would host the American leg of the World Championship Series, the biggest international tournament in StarCraft. Choi’s career was given a lucky extension.

In that time, he’s only become better. In 2013, Choi easily ranked as one of eSports' most successful stars, taking in three gold medals and $50,000 in prizes. Remarkably, he wasn’t even a true full-time player at the time. English classes and studying drastically cut into his StarCraft practice regimen.

“It was painful to do both taking classes 16 hours a week and practice every day,” Choi said. “Since I couldn’t sleep enough time, I sometimes got a headache and even couldn’t play well at tournaments.”

Choi competing against fellow-Korean star Ko "HyuN" Seok Hyun 

Choi’s decision to live and compete in the U.S. for another year may earn him a few sideways glances. After all, North America offers a much weaker competitive environment compared to South Korea or even Europe.

But his success in 2013 offers an answer to those doubts. Choi completed the vaunted “triple crown” in June, a big feat requiring a player to win major tournaments in South Korea, Europe, and North America.

“The triple crown has special meaning,” Choi told the Daily Dot. “It's considered easier to win tournaments in America and Europe. However, this also means I have a championship in Korea.”

 Choi boasting three crowns. Illustration by Nicolas Chaussois.

Before leaving Seoul, Choi had already secured a spot in Code S of the Global StarCraft League, the top league in the Korean StarCraft pyramid.

Choi is the defending two-time champion of the American leg of the World Championship Series, having taken home $40,000 for his efforts. He’s earned a total of $259,602 in prize money throughout his career. However, despite that big success in 2013, Choi landed at a disappointing 5th place at the Global Championships in December.

Now, Choi has something to prove. Prize totals at the World Championship Series have gone up  and the competition is better than ever. Choi will be able to fully dedicate himself to StarCraft 2.

The P-1A visa allows players to stay and compete in the United States for five years, but Choi is unsure of what will happen after 2014.

“There are many things to consider,” he said. “I have to do military service and go back to school soon.”

After all, school was the inspiration for his American trip.

“For now, I’m just thinking to live in the US for one year,” he concluded, “and will figure out later for the next year.”

Photo via Waytao Shing

Jan 20 2017 - 5:28 pm

Combo Breaker announcement may imply the end of auto-qualifiers for Capcom Pro Tour

Capcom may be trying to simplify its 2017 Pro Tour.
Steve Jurek
Dot Esports
Image via Capcom

A big change is coming to the 2017 Capcom Pro Tour, but yesterday's announcement may have hinted at an even larger change—a possible end to players winning automatic qualification into the Capcom Cup through Premier events.

The Street Fighter V tournament at Combo Breaker is being upgraded to a Premier event for the 2017 Pro Tour, Capcom announced via Twitter. The event, which will take place in the Chicago area over Memorial Day weekend, served as a Ranking event in 2015 and 2016. Its spiritual predecessor, the Ultimate Fighting Game Tournament, filled the same role in 2014.

Premier events award more Capcom Pro Tour points to top performers compared to Ranking events. A yet-to-be-announced number of the season's top points earners will earn a spot in the Capcom Cup, the season's championship event. Premier events also offer a Capcom-provided pot bonus. The figure has not yet been confirmed by Capcom, but it is believed to be $15,000.

In previous years, a player who won a Premier event received an automatic berth in that season's Capcom Cup. Thursday's announcement, however, may have implied that this is no longer the case.

An update on Combo Breaker's website stated that placing well at the event "will earn you valuable ranking points that put you well on your way to qualifying for the Capcom Cup!"

Notably, the statement makes no mention of an automatic berth into the Capcom Cup, something that every Premier event winner has been awarded since the Pro Tour's founding in 2014.

The statement does not necessarily confirm that auto-qualification into the Capcom Cup has been eliminated. It does, however, fall in line with statements made by Capcom esports director Neidel Crisan. In conversations with both Yahoo! Esports and EventHubs late last year, Crisan mentioned the possibility of eliminating auto-qualification berths in order to simplify the qualifying process.

A player had three ways to qualify for the Capcom Cup in 2016; winning a Premier event, placing high in the global Pro Tour points standings, or placing high in each region's Pro Tour points standings. The system confused fans, commentators, and players alike.

We may not know how qualification for the Capcom Cup will work in 2017, but we do know that the tour itself will look a bit different than it has in previous years.

Combo Breaker will presumably fill a gap left by Stunfest, a French gaming convention that that served as a Premier event on the Pro Tour in each of the last two years. Organizers of that event announced a "pause" for the convention late last year with plans to return in 2018.

The tour will also be without Cannes Winter Clash, the other French event that was part of the 2016 tour. Organizers of that event, which will take place during the last weekend in February, announced the change last week in a Reddit post. The event had served as the Pro Tour's season opener in both 2015 and 2016.

"Obviously with Cannes and Stunfest out there will need to be at least one French replacement event," Samad "Damascus" Abdessadki, a competitor and commentator who is involved in the organization of the Cannes Winter Clash, told Dot Esports. "[Capcom] can't leave France out of [the Capcom Pro Tour] when it's arguably the biggest community in Europe - and maybe [the] strongest."

France is the only European country that has sent two players to the Capcom Cup in each of the last two years. It is also home to Olivier "Luffy" Hay, the only player from outside of Asia to win a Street Fighter IV Evo title.

One event that will return is Final Round. On Wednesday, Capcom announced that Final Round will serve as the first Premier event of the season for the fourth straight year. That event, now in its 20th year, will take place in Atlanta during the second weekend of March.

Capcom will announce full details of the 2017 Pro Tour in late February.

Disclaimer: The author of this article has worked as part of the volunteer staff at Combo Breaker/Ultimate Fighting Game Tournament since 2014.

Jan 20 2017 - 9:49 pm

IEM Katowice’s CS:GO tournament is going to be awesome

The final two invites went out today, and the tournament's guaranteed to be exciting.
Sam Nordmark
Writer at @dotesports
Photo via Fragbite

The final two teams to be invited to one of the year's biggest events have been announced.

FaZe Clan and Danish soccer club FC Copenhagen's esports venture, North, will be attending IEM Katowice's Counter-Strike: Global Offensive finals from Mar. 1-5, ESL announced today. The teams, which showed impressive form towards the end of 2016 at multiple international LAN events, will be competing against some of the best teams in the world.

The two teams are also the last to receive invitations to the event, as four teams will be added after a series of online qualifiers. In total, three more European teams will be attending IEM Katowice, as well as one North American team. With an already-stacked ensemble of teams ready to attend, such as Brazil's SK Gaming, Polish hometown heroes Virtus Pro, and Denmark's top team Astralis, the four teams that will be advancing through the online qualifiers will be making an already-competitive event all the more fierce.

In October 2016, the current North roster, which was signed to Dignitas at the time, took home the $500,000 EPICENTER event in Moscow. Aside from being one of the biggest events of the year, it had all the top teams in the world in attendance. Since then, however, North has struggled to live up to the expectations placed upon them, and have recently fallen short at nearly all events they have attended since.

The opposite can be said about FaZe, since the team picked up former Astralis in-game leader Finn "Karrigan" Andersen. Since Karrigan's arrival, FaZe have had their best results since the team's inception, and have looked stronger at each event they have attended.

Taking place roughly one month after the ELEAGUE Major, which begins on Jan. 22, IEM Katowice will likely be the debut tournament of several new rosters—so make sure to keep an eye on what could be one of the biggest CS:GO events of the year.