THE 27th OF JULY is passing and millions worldwide are out on the prowl for a copy of Starcraft II.
Picking up where Brood Wars ended, gamers are now given an opportunity to continue the journey of Jim Raynor and his mission to wipe out the Zerg menace. Sounds too simple to be a winner, right? Well, no games publisher has hit the mark quite so frequently and hard as Blizzard. Starcraft, Diablo and World of Warcraft (WoW) are gazillion dollar franchises that have racked up a rather large fortune for Activision and Blizzard. In fact, if it had not been for Starcraft, World of Warcraft would probably never have seen the light of day.
As midnight struck, Activision and Blizzard have released the much-awaited sequel to Starcraft - Starcraft II - Wings of Liberty - the Sci-Fi RTS hit that broke RTS multiplayer and online gaming shackles back in 1998. The original Starcraft is the fourth highest grossing PC game of all time with 11 million copies sold, trailing closely The Sims, Sims 2 and it's own brother franchise, World of Warcraft.
The secret of Starcraft, apart from online multiplayer gameplay, was the introduction of a three-faction campaign with an exceedingly good plot that matched the humans xenophobe attitude towards aliens, the condescending Protoss' holier-than-thou attitude and the seemingly limitless tactics that the Zerg produced.
Once you actually got over the campaign and its expansion packs you still had tons of replayability, not to mention the fact that you could always log in to Battle.Net and fight your way up the ladder - or come crashing down - against another human being... unless someone pulled the plug on their Internet connection. Believe us, those were the early days of online multiplayer gaming and just about any dirty trick you could come up with worked. But we digress.
Just yesterday, July 26th, the analysts' crystal balls were already estimating that Starcraft II game sales alone will top 7 million units until the end of 2010 which, even if wildly exaggerated, half of which alone would be nothing short of astonishing considering the game would actually be selling as a cult sequel. Although a little late, Starcraft II is still on the path to being the biggest game of the year, and to many, the end of a long wait full of bumps and delays. After a rather long beta testing period, gamers worldwide can now spend their hard-earned cash on the PC/Mac retail version for £44.99 (€54.99 or $59.99) with some added goodies from Battle.net thrown in.
Starcraft is big. To give you some perspective there is a whole generation of 30-somethings in South Korea who couldn't give a toss about North and South Korean politics, but who would easily give away their firstborn child for Starcraft II - Wings of Liberty,that's how big we figure Starcraft II is. The Korean subsidiary of Blizzard went as far as partnering up with Korean Air to splatter some of its flights with promotional ink. TV Channels and national cups in South Korea are a dime a dozen and celebrities don't have to dance or sing, they just dish out some pain online.
However, Starcraft II isn't supposed to be the revolutionary game that Blizzard brought about in 1998, it's supposed to be a rather refined 2010-ish version of the original with support for modern hardware and a real 3D graphics engine to add to the beauty. Some will find this disappointing, while others will still have the memory imprint from their zerg hivemind telling them that anything Starcraft-esque running at a resolution over 640x480 will be teh awesum.
The game, in fact, has not pushed the envelope in terms of graphics hardware, some will say in order to reach out to as many players as possible. Quite true. Conservative hardware specifications will get this game running on just about any computer built within the last few years, so a large chunk of casual gamers will not feel left out by a demanding 3D engine.
So if you fancy to get in touch with your inner Zerg again, Starcraft II is here. You've been teased long enough, don't you think? µ
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