Gamers who've been salivating at the chance to slaughter zerglings (or each other) like it's 1998 are going to have to wait a little longer. Blizzard
Entertainment announced today that the first Starcraft 2 campaign—the Terran-centric Wings of Liberty
will not be ready by the end of 2009. The culprit, according to company PR, is Battle.net. The company's release is quoted below.
"...it has become clear that it will take longer than expected to prepare the new Battle.net for the launch of the game. The upgraded Battle.net is an integral part of the StarCraft
II experience and will be an essential part of all of our games moving forward. This extra development time will be critical to help us realize our vision for the service."
Ironically, Battle.Net has already been a sore spot for Starcraft 2, given Blizzard's controversial decision to develop the game without LAN support. Blizzard employee Bob Colayco stated at the time that the decision to yank LAN support was "the best option to ensure a quality multiplayer experience with StarCraft II and safeguard against piracy."
Not pictured: Pirates
Starcraft 2 is virtually guaranteed to be a smash hit, but it's hard not to feel as though the wind is changing. Back in November of 2008, Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick unabashedly declared
his intent to monetize every last cent of valuable IP, even if he had to drive the game franchise into the ground to do it. Asked by MTV Multiplayer why Blizzard had dropped several games in the wake of its Activision merger, Kotick responded that the titles in question:
"don't have the potential to be exploited every year on every platform with clear sequel potential and have the potential to become $100 million dollar franchises. ... I think, generally, our strategy has been to focus... on the products that have those attributes and characteristics, the products that we know [that] if we release them today, we'll be working on them 10 years from now."
In less than a year, we've seen Blizzard introduce paid character customization to WoW ($15), announce paid faction changes (not yet implemented, presumedly at least $15), and declare that Starcraft 2 will be released as a series of three episodes rather than as a unified whole. How fair of a deal this turns out to be depends on what price tag Blizzard attaches to each episode, but it'd be surprising if the company came in below $39.99 and $49.99 is my personal bet.
In the new, Activision-powered future, it appears that you can customize a character, switch factions, or buy Starcraft 2 one slice at a time—provided, of course, that you don't want to play the former over a LAN. Does anyone else find it ironic that four years after the company launched its license to print money, it's removing functionality end-users have come to expect? I'm all for stopping pirates and ensuring that artists/content creators receive their due, but attempting to jam a feature rip down the throats of gamers and cloaking it in blatant half-truth regarding the multiplayer experience smacks of a company that doesn't have the guts to admit its newfound greed.