The world's longest-running esports league has shut down.
The StarCraft ProLeague began life in March 2003 and was also the world's first team-based esports league, but organisers announced overnight that it will now disappear from schedules, while five out of the seven competing teams have dropped their StarCraft 2 rosters.
Jun Byung-hun, chairman of the Korean e-Sports Association (KeSPA), attributed the closure to a drop in the number of teams and players wishing to compete, difficulty securing league sponsors and the fallout from match-fixing scandals.
ProLeague was originally formed around StarCraft: Brood War before adding StarCraft 2 in 2011 and transitioning completely to the new game shortly after. Major esports organisations like SK Telecom T1, KT Rolster and CJ Entus fielded teams right to the end.
According to Christopher "MonteCristo" Mykles, the renowned English-language caster based in South Korea, Afreeca Freecs and Jin Air will be the only teams to retain StarCraft 2 rosters now that ProLeague has gone.
KeSPA said it would look to support pro gamers wishing to stick with StarCraft 2 in things like this November's World Championship Series Global Finals and the StarCraft KeSPA Cup.
StarCraft has arguably been on the decline as an esport for a while now, but the passing of ProLeague still feels like a huge moment, and fans maintained a lot of love for it right to the end. One fan even put together this rather touching video tribute:
"We hope that StarCraft ProLeague will live on in the memories of its players, fans, and all affiliated parties as an invaluable asset that pioneered the eSports industry and contributed to establishing competitive gaming as a mainstream culture in Korea," Jun Byung-hun said in KeSPA's statement announcing the league's closure.