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The Death of a Pioneer – OGN’s lasting legacy for esports

The world’s first esport broadcaster will reportedly shut down by the end of the year. OGN was founded 20 years ago and had been a pioneer in the industry.

According to a report by FOMOS reporter Kim Yong-Woo, South Korean broadcaster OGN will shut down on December 31st. Once a giant of the scene OGN had been a key part in turning esports into mainstream in South Korea.

Pioneers with StarCraft

OGN was the first to bring esports to television screens as their StarCraft tournaments in the Broodwar era defined much of what we consider as “esports” today: Massive venues, corporate sponsors, the best players and a well-tuned production. Their OngameNet Starleague (OSL) was the most prestigious tournament by a long shot and helped form legends like StarCraft’s Flash or Jaedong. Together with the Proleague in Broodwar they formed the foundation for modern esports.

The legendary Ever StarLeague opening in 2007

Even when Broodwar’s popularity waned and the (Blizzard-enforced) transition to StarCraft II proved to be difficult, OGN continued to forge ahead. Their answer was to open up new fields for their audience. Subsequently they became important organizers for Korea’s Overwatch and League of Legends scene.

Be it Overwatch’s APEX tournaments or the early LCK in LoL, OGN continued to hold up a gold standard in productions, storytelling and tournament operation.

Struggling to adapt

While their Overwatch and LoL ventures were successful, both games have transitioned into developer-run leagues since then. Blizzard Activision launched the Overwatch League in 2017 and Riot decided to produce Korea’s LCK by themselves starting from 2019.

OGN’s final LCK opening for Summer 2018

To compensate for losing those leagues and their broadcasting rights OGN decided to heavily invest into PUBG as the next big esport hit. Unfortunately the scene never quite took off as much as their previous titles did and OGN’s viewership plummeted with no change in sight.

In his report Kim pointed out the drop in advertising revenue due to COVID-19 as a key factor in the decision to shut OGN down. Current staff are now transferring to other companies in preparation for closing down the broadcasting station or merging it with other channels.

Lasting influence of OGN

While OGN’s demise is a cautionary tale in a market that moves as fast as the esports industry, they certainly have lain down a lot of the groundwork for what we take for granted today.

With the end in sight for the broadcaster it is unclear what will happen with the assets OGN still has. Many of their old broadcast have immense historical value for the scene and could be in jeopardy depending on further developments.

But even if their archives cannot be saved, the industry and scene as a whole will certainly remember OGN’s contributions.

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Image Credits: OGN, Game.Donga