Blizzard's StarCraft 2 Adopting Free-to-Play Model Later This Month
If you haven't been paying attention to the StarCraft world lately, it may be easy to think that StarCraft II - the game that came out seven years ago - may be winding down. Of course, we'd have to ridicule you for having such thoughts, because this is Blizzard we're talking about, and its games have some true staying power.
There's also the fact that Blizzard has since released three full-fledged expansion packs, with the final one, Nova Covert Ops (split into three mini packs), wrapping things up last November. Blizzard now feels that the time is right to make the game free-to-play. So if you've ever been craving some RTS action lately, this easily answers the question of which game you should try next.
The term "free-to-play" is thrown around an awful lot, and it seems to mean different things to different companies. What it means in this case is that the original release of StarCraft II, which included the Wings of Liberty campaign, is being given away entirely for free. With it, you'll be able to access ranked multiplayer, and play with the currently available Co-op Commanders, including Raynor, Kerrigan, and Artanis.
What's really cool about the multiplayer aspect is the fact that Blizzard will require players to win 10 matches in unranked or against AI, aiming to preserve the integrity of online play. This is good thinking, because if people can easily sign up for a free game, cheating and / or trolling is an inevitability (we're watching you, Google engineers!).
Nonetheless, if you end up enjoying Wings of Liberty so much that you'll end up craving the other content options, Blizzard will sell you any one of the three individual expansions (Heart of the Swarm, Legacy of the Void, or Nova Covert Ops) for $14.99 each. You can also save five bucks by buying them as a bundle.
In time, Blizzard is going to introduce some aesthetic options that will allow it to fund the game beyond your initial purchase. New Co-op Commanders will be released, and will cost a fee, though each can be leveled up to 5 with no commitment to purchase.
Previous StarCraft II expansion owners receive the Ghost skin for free
If you've been a big StarCraft II fan for a while and have dutifully purchased the three expansions (or even just one), you'll be granted a free Ghost skin as well as three new portraits - something as a way for Blizzard to say thanks. Also, if you own Wings of Liberty already, you'll be granted Heart of the Swarm for free, but only if you claim it between Nov 8 - Dec 8.
For everyone else, you can mark your calendars for November 14th, as that's the day the game officially becomes free-to-play.