Macro Tsimmis

intelligently hedged investment

Activision Blizzard (ATVI) update #11—Starcraft II beta test begins

Posted by intelledgement on Thu, 18 Feb 10

Our game publishing company, Activision Blizzard (ATVI), announced yesterday that beta testing for the long-awaited sequel to the 1998 real-time strategy game Starcraft has begun. With over 11 million copies sold world-wide, Starcraft is the third most successful game ever for personal computers after The Sims (29 million) and World of Warcraft (12 million subscriptions), and is particularly popular in South Korea, where there are big-money tournaments, two television channels dedicated to broadcasting matches, and top players can achieve fame and make a living as professionals.

There have been several successful gaming franchises—e.g., Mario Brothers, Final Fantasy, Grand Theft Auto—that had multi-year success thanks to well-received sequels with materially ramped up features and enhanced gameplay. But with the exception of one expansion kit that added a few minor wrinkles, Starcraft is essentially the same game it was 12 years ago. This is a singularity in video gaming, given the speed at which the underlying technology morphs, and very few individual games are commercially viable for more than a year or two.

Although the game is billed as a “strategy” game, it is more tactical in nature, with each player typically just a few dozen troops/vehicles. However, there is an underlying logistics framework, as each player needs to gather scarce resources to afford to build new units and conduct research to enhance their capabilities. The staying power of the game is a testament to its meticulously developed playbalance, as well as to the robustness of Blizzard’s online Battle.net game adjudication network, access to which is free to anyone who purchases a licensed copy of the game. (A major upgrade of Battle.net—which will support the subscription game World of Warcraft also—is being released coincidentally with Starcraft II.)

Work on Starcraft II began in 2003 and the game was officially announced in 2007, but its release has been delayed several times. According to yesterday’s press release, the game “is currently slated to ship in the first half of 2010.” The game is very popular among the staff here at Intelledgement, but being Mac users, we are locked out of the beta test which presently only supports Wintel computers.  😦  Hopefully, life will improve and we will be able to report first hand on the quality of this major ATVI release.

Previous ATVI-related posts:

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