10 October 2008

Starcraft II Trilogy

News just came out of Blizzcon that the much anticipated Starcraft II will be split into three separate retail releases, titled Terran: Wings of Liberty, Zerg: Heart of the Swarm, and Protoss: Legacy of the Void. The announcement just broke so details are scarce, but the bottom line seems to be that if you want the complete SC2 single player experience, you need to buy three different games. Now, this raises several concerns.

When I first heard about the Activision/Blizzard merger, I had many deep reservations. Given Blizzard's track record for enjoyable, highly polished games (Warcraft, Diablo) and Activisions reputation for milking any and all gaming cashcows till the teat runs dry (13 Tony Hawk games in 10 years?), I was afraid that the quality of Blizzard's stable of classics would noticeably decline. In that context, it would be difficult not to see this announcement as the latest symptom of Activision's "business first" attitude affecting Blizzard's game line, but this news isn't all bad.

First of all, we don't know how much each installment is going to cost. We might see three releases for $40 each. Even $50 each isn't that far fetched, with today's pricing standard moving towards the $60 spectrum. Of course, any of these prices can only be judged on the merit of how much content comes in each bundle. Activision Blizzard insists that each installment will be a title unto itself, with the same content as the original game, if not more so. This is a valid point, if true. It's validity stands to be seen on release day. Only time will tell.

Which brings me to my next point: we just don't know yet. What we do know is that all three releases will come with fully-functional multi-player. We also know that all three factions will be playable in each version. Despite the bleating from the dissident section of the Blizzard community, there's no evidence that this decision was inspired by a search for more money. More likely, the work on the various faction campaigns took longer than expected and, to offset rising development costs and to appease a loyal fanbase waiting too long for a sequel, decided to break up the offline content into three packages with consecutive release dates. This way, gamers can get their hands on the multi-player and dig into the Terran campaign without having to wait the months for the Zerg and Protoss stories to be finished up.

Of course, this is all conjecture. It's also completely possible that those evil suits at Activision have strong armed Blizzard into digging a little deeper into the wallets of their fanbase for two unnecessary retail bundles. After all, money is the only fuel that can sustain the fires of their hell forges, where they offer their sacrifices of forsaken children to their dark lord, Cuthyl'Naruus.

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