The Esports Capital of the World Is Dead, and It’s All Because of Twitch

Pe3k/Shutterstock farikha rosyida/Shutterstock (Licensed) Remix by Caterina Cox

Korea’s lack of net neutrality has been a thorn in the side of streaming platforms for years. It was only recently that Netflix attempted to sue a South Korean internet service provider (ISP) to avoid paying extra on usage charges, but now, the country’s billion-dollar esports industry has come tumbling down.

In a blog post, Twitch CEO Dan Clancy confirmed that the platform would cease operations in the country on February 27, 2024. This is because the cost to run Twitch is, as he puts it, “prohibitively expensive.”

The only reason Twitch lasted as long as it did in Korea is because of its enviable esports presence. Every day, 300,000 Koreans tune in to watch Twitch, with over half of South Korea’s 50 million population considering themselves esports fans.

This year, the esports market in Korea is projected to reach $274.4 million — but even figures like this are nothing compared to the cost Twitch shoulders to even run in the country. With no net neutrality, Korea’s network costs are ten times more expensive than those from other countries, and according to Clancy, this has led to Twitch running at a significant loss in the region.

But arguably, those who will lose out the most from this deal will be the 6.7 million Twitch users. Creators who stream primarily on Twitch in the country now face losing their main source of income.

If you’re a creator in Korea, the good news is that the platform is taking some steps to mitigate the impact of this closure. For its last few months of operation, for instance, the platform is lifting its ban on simulcasting streams to other platforms and encouraging streamers to be proactive in sharing links to other platforms.

But will these steps be enough? As one clip captures the moment a Korean streamer found out about the move, the future for creators in the country looks bleak.

“I’ve lost my job!” the streamer exclaimed. “My career… Everything will be gone.” She then went on to explain that even if she moved to another country, she’d have to make a new account, and there would be no guarantee she’d become a Twitch partner and be able to make money.

“I want to reiterate that this was a very difficult decision and one we are very disappointed we had to make,” Clancy added.

“Korea has always and will continue to play a special role in the international esports community, and we are incredibly grateful for the communities they built on Twitch.”

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