Is StarCraft II dying or a victim of eSports’ success

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With the rise of games like Dota 2 and League of Legends, StarCraft II no longer has the spotlight. But does this mean that the game is dying or simply that StarCraft has fallen victim to the success of eSports around the globe?

A rather lengthy article was published discussing the state of StarCraft II presently following the elaborate Reddit post by a popular competitive player, Destiny. Destiny discusses the history of StarCraft, the stagnation of the community and the state of StarCraft in South Korea as well as the upcoming expansion and suggestion sot Blizzard on how to improve the game an engage a new audience. While there are many valid points made, I find myself asking whether players just haven’t taken into account the growth of eSports globally which has stolen StarCraft’s limelight. There are many factors that contribute to StarCraft II not living up to Brood War, all of which might make some StarCraft II player’s expectations seem unreal or not well thought out. By no means am I at all saying that Destiny’s thoughts and expectations of StarCraft II are unreal or unsubstantiated.

StarCraft II versus Brood War

When StarCraft released in 1998 it exploded into a culture of its own, specifically in South Korea. It was not only the game played by the masses but raked in six-figure salaries for competitive players. The Brood War expansion brought even greater success to the title and for more than a decade, this game had been a major part of StarCraft players’ lives. The tournaments, enormous spectatorship and reverence for the title were off the charts. But how could StarCraft II measure up to this in 2010 and the future? Simple, it couldn’t and won’t ever do so.

Times have changed and so has the industry. Gamers have more options in game titles to choose from, big companies are throwing their cash at other titles and eSports has expanded way beyond RTS games, where FPS games might not be a threat to the RTS genre, MOBA games certainly are.

StarCraft II versus LoL and Dota 2

I’m not an expert of StarCraft, Dota or League of Legends for that matter but it’s easy to see why the last two mentioned titles have gripped some big audiences and are rising up as the new kings of eSports, with LoL having million dollar prize pools, where StarCraft II does not.

Destiny had made in my opinion a very valid and true point. He concluded that that StarCraft needed a wider audience to survive.

“Blizzard HAS to make some kind of serious attempt to appeal to the casual player and to bolster interest and support from the casual gamer,” he wrote.

StarCraft is a game for those who are better than average at strategising and have almost super-human (might be exaggerating a tiny bit there :P) abilities to perform crazy amounts of actions per seconds or APM. I’d even go as far as to say, it’s for a specific and specialised type of competitive gamer and audience. So when a portion of this audience or community loses interest and moves on to something else, it is a bigger challenge to fill that gap again, than for games like LoL that are more “fun” or friendly to new players and players who only play casually. Does this mean, dumb down StarCraft? No, it definitely does not. Adding features to the game that make it more fun and give more incentive to be online, could easily add the factor that attracts new or casual players.

Dota 2 and League of Legends have a certain lure to them, enticing new players to try it out, not to mention that League of Legends is a free-to-play game. They come across as more fun and easier to learn, where as StarCraft scares the living bajezuz out of me and makes me feel dumb. This is not to say that that’s the general consensus on StarCraft II, but I can only imagine that if I’m a bit scared off by the game, others might be too. StarCraft II not only has the multiplayer aspect of the game, but in my opinion a fantastic single player campaign with a rich story, in other words, ample potential to be even greater.

Blizzard responds with an opinion and new features

StarCraft II production director, Chris Sigaty has responded to Kotaku in regard to the Reddit post, also raising a point I tend to agree with.

“eSports is not a zero-sum game where if one thing does well, that means others must be doing poorly. StarCraft is a very unique game with a unique audience. League of Legends is a very different game with a different audience. Call of Duty, Street Fighter, and Halo are also different competitive games with different audiences. The NFL, MLB, and NBA manage to coexist and flourish serving different audiences that have some overlap. They each work as hard as they can to best serve their sport and their audiences. That analogy applies to the various franchises within the eSports ecosystem.” Sigaty wrote.

Just because League of Legends is doing well right now, does not mean that StarCraft II is dying or unsuccessful. It is not the cause, even though it might be a threat, of StarCraft’s stagnation.

Sigaty also mentioned some major eSports events coming up in the future for StarCraft II, including the MLG, IGN Pro League and the battle.net World Championship in China, which will give $250, 000 in prizes. Fair enough, it’s not a million dollars like in League of Legends, but the problem seems to rather be funding than a dying game.

Blizzard will also be adding some new features in the future to take a step towards improving the game. Take a look at Sigaty’s breakdown:

  • Groups and clans system — We will very soon have a blog post detailing what this looks like and what the functionality will be.
  • Global play — users will be able to jump between regional ladders they wish to play in.
  • Unranked matchmaking — lets you have the benefits of skill-based matchmaking without the anxiety of seeing your ladder ranking move up and down.
  • UI updates with improved stats tracking and more — see blog post here.
  • Multiplayer resume from replay — this will not only act as a failsafe in terms of dropped connections for pro tournaments, but also acts as a failsafe in cases where LAN would not have helped (hardware failure, client crash, etc).
  • Multiplayer replay viewing — this feature will allow you and friends to jump in and watch replays together over Battle.net.
  • Multilanguage support
  • A new Leveling System, which rewards players with cool cosmetic content for participating in online matches.

“As you might guess, we’re putting a specific focus around features that will help give players more ways to enjoy online play,” he said. “Unranked matchmaking and the leveling system are just a couple examples of how we’re addressing online play that doesn’t focus as heavily on the hyper competitive aspect of StarCraft.”

Whether Blizzard’s attempts to make StarCraft II a game more suitable and fun for casual gamers will be successful, is something only time will tell. Whether this is the answer to getting StarCraft back on top, that will remain debatable. Maybe StarCraft will never be what it was again, it is more likely that it won’t, but not unlikely that it will become bigger and better than it currently is.

Last Updated: October 29, 2012

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