Azubu management has confirmed a statement made last week by former Korean esports journalist Ethan Ahn that the StarCraft 2 team will officially be coming to a close by the end of this week. The team has been on a steady decline since the beginning of this year, with the team members Kim 'Sleep' Seong Han, Jo 'Patience' Ji Hyun, Kang 'Symbol' Dong Hyun, Choi 'Center' Jae Sung, Shin 'RagnaroK' Hee Bum, Kim 'SuperNova' Young Jin, and Choi 'BBoongBBoong' Jong Hyuk all having left the team, or their contract run up. The closing of the StarCraft 2 team comes after nearly two years of activity including a personal sponsorship of Kim 'viOLet' Dong Hwan, and legendary Brood War champion Lee 'NaDa' Yoon Yeol in the role of player-manager.
"As a result of Azubu’s change in management, there is a strategic focus on forming partnerships with existing teams and players across the spectrum of eSports", Azubu said in a statement provided to onGamers. "Team Azubu consisted of nine players, a Team Director, Team Coach and Team Manager. Of the nine players, seven had already taken the decision to leave, with just 'BBoongBBoong' and 'SuperNova' currently remaining on the roster."
"We still view Starcraft II as an important game on the eSports scene and it will continue to form a key part of Azubu’s programming content."
JH Choi tells onGamers that the StarCraft 2 players on the team knew the team would be disbanding two months prior to this week's announcement. JH Choi believes that StarCraft 2's waning popularity in South Korea is the main catalyst for the team being dropped, but that they weren't too close to the management running the show.
"The StarCraft 2 team was almost independent", he said.
Azubu currently sponsors two Taiwanese League of Legends teams, including the Season 2 World Champions Taipei Assassins. Former powerhouse sister Korean teams Blaze and Frost left the organization early last year to join up with the KeSPA-backed CJ Entus. While Azubu doesn't explicitly rule out the option of picking up more StarCraft 2 players, the focus is not on signing more players.
"Azubu’s goal is to deliver premium content from the world of eSports and this will in part be achieved by forming strategic partnerships with the best teams and players participating in this space", Azubu states. "We are currently exploring opportunities across a range of titles, including Starcraft 2."
With new management coming into place headed by new CEO Ian Sharpe, sources close to the company tell onGamers that Azubu plans on re-launching Azubu.tv in the upcoming months. 2013 saw Azubu sponsor Riot's League Championship Series, and partner with League of Legends team Counter Logic Gaming and the Cyber Sports Network for streaming.
“At Azubu we offer seamless game streaming, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg,” said Sharpe at the time. “We’re also introducing talented young players, providing insightful commentary and broadening eSports-awareness at the corporate and consumer levels. Many exciting channels and changes will be delivered over the next few months.”
While no partnerships for Azubu in 2014 have yet been announced, Counter Logic Gaming's uniforms for the 2014 LCS contain Azubu branding and logos. CLG General Manager Kelby May says that market leader Twitch has not attempted to bring them on board their platform.
"TwitchTV has no interest in bringing CLG on board as a partner", May told onGamers. "They have not made us a serious/competitive offer in well over a year. They clearly don't feel any market pressure or need for CLG to join their network."
"I can very well see why they might feel they don't need us. They have overwhelming market share and might easily come to the conclusion that it may very well not make financial sense for them to partner with us, especially if they're trying to set certain standards for partner deals. My comment is not a dig against Twitch or a complaint, simply a statement of facts."
May declined to comment if they will be continuing their partnership into 2014.
onGamers will conduct a more extensive interview with Sharpe in the upcoming weeks on the current state of the company and its future.