More than seven years after the launch of StarCraft 2: Wings of Liberty, Blizzard Entertainment is making the real-time strategy game free-to-play. The developer announced its plans to release the game and its first campaign for free at BlizzCon 2017 this week, a move that will open StarCraft 2 up to a broader audience.
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Blizzard’s Tim Morten, production director on StarCraft 2, said conversations about moving to a free-to-play model have been happening for a while, but that it was important to make the change palatable to new and existing players.
“Some of the early triggers of considering free-to-play were feedback that even though a lot of the game already was free through the starter edition, that that wasn’t well-known,” Morten told mister-map.com in an interview at BlizzCon, “
“We wanted to cut through that confusion and announce that StarCraft 2 is free-to-play.”
Morten said that StarCraft 2’s legacy of being an esport was another factor, and making the game free-to-play would make the game accessible to new competitors. That feedback also came from Blizzard’s esports partners, who would understandably want to see some fresh blood playing StarCraft 2.
Blizzard has been receiving that kind of input from players and partners “almost incidentally since the launch of StarCraft 2: Legacy of the Void,” the game’s second expansion, Morten said. Since then, Blizzard has added what Morten called “a lot of microcontent”: unit skins, co-op commanders and the Nova Covert Ops missions.
“We now have a catalog of content for people … if they came in from free-to-play,” Morten said, and that Blizzard wanted to stay away from secondary currencies, grinding and other annoying monetization methods.
Of course, new players who get the game for free can also purchase the other two campaigns: Heart of the Swarm and Legacy of the Void. They’re priced at $14.99 each.
StarCraft 2 Nova Covert Ops Blizzard Entertainment The transition from a paid, boxed retail product to a free-to-play game isn’t just flipping a switch. Morten said the StarCraft 2 team has been working on ways to make the game approachable to new and lapsed players.
“We spent a lot of time thinking about the right way to do this,” Morten said. “It was very important to us that this be accomplished in a way that feels good to our current player base and also attractive to new players or lapsed players who haven’t played since Wings of Liberty.”
Morten stressed that Blizzard isn’t adding any secondary currencies or additional microtransactions to StarCraft 2 in order to support the game’s new free-to-play model.
“We’re just taking existing content that used to cost money and making it available for free,” Morten said. That includes free access to the Wings of Liberty campaign (or Heart of the Swarm if players already own Wings of Liberty), cooperative mode and competitive multiplayer. Players who get StarCraft 2 for free will have access to the game’s co-op commanders up to level 5, and will be able to join in ranked multiplayer matches after they’ve achieved 10 first wins of the day.
Morten said the team is introducing a new onboarding experience that helps guide new players to the mode that makes the most sense for them, whether that’s the campaign, cooperative mode or competitive ladder matches.
The primary goal, Morten said, in making the game free-to-play was to “take what we loved as a game and make it easy to be accessed more easily by more people.”
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