StarCraft II Starter Edition offers online freetoplay sample for all
Blizzard has announced the availability of StarCraft II Starter Edition, a trial version of the hit RTS title that features free online multiplayer features and no time restriction. This preview of the game allows players to learn the basics of Terran play and then join their full-version friends online on standard and custom multiplayer games.Players will get to play a total of five missions from the earliest parts of the Wings of Liberty campaign: the first three levels on Mar Sara plus a choice between the first Dr. Hanson or first Tychus Findlay missions. There are also two Challenge Missions available for players who want to work up their micro skills. Within this content, players can earn achievements that are then transferable to the full version of the game, should they buy it.The real good stuff comes in multiplayer, however. Starter Edition players can play custom matches with anyone on Battle.net, including those owning the full version of SC2. Players will have access to four multiplayer maps (Xel’Naga Caverns, Shattered Temple, Discord IV, and High Orbit), with a fifth (StarJeweled) coming soon. Blizzard has opened the possibility that maps will be rotated in and out of the Starter Edition. These maps will be marked with a sign for all players for ease of creating games with friends who are new to the game. Starter Edition friends will be able to create matches and invite their friends.This being a free version meant to pull in new customers, there are some limitations. The biggest is that players can only play as Terran, with Zerg or Protoss remaining completely unavailable. Aside from the single race and the aforementioned short map lists, SE players won’t get access to online matchmaking, Battle.net chat rooms, or parties. While players will be able to tinker in the Map Editor if they wish, they won’t be able to test or publish the maps on Battle.net.However, there are some nice features that SE players can check out. The trial can show replays from any version of the game, and players can also check out friends’ profiles, ladder stats and achievements online.Players can check out Starter Edition right now using their existing Battle.net accounts (or creating new ones for free). Under Account Management, StarCraft II Starter Edition will be an available download.via Battle.netBlake’s OpinionVery smart, Blizzard. Everyone likes when you release a more fully-featured demo. You’re also more likely to convert more demo players into paying customers. Win-win! But even better, you’ve clearly put some thought into how this demo should go about convincing those new players to buy the game.One detail in particular – the restriction of multiplayer matches to custom games – pretty much says it all. Custom games only allow players to play with their friends and effectively block out anonymous players. Starter Edition buddies will get better guidance in the game through talking to friends in matches. What’s more, they’ll get encouragement instead of discouragement by having fun with their friends instead of even getting the chance to be turned off the game by getting stomped in anonymous laddering.This free online sample begins to make SC2 look a bit more like MMO games that have successfully made the conversion to free-to-play, like Dungeons and Dragons Online or Lord of the Rings Online. I’m not suggesting that SC2 is going to start requiring a subscription anytime soon – in fact, quite the opposite. This move, combined with the recent revelation that Diablo III will allow real-money trading, shows that Blizzard is ready to be innovative with matters of money.That’s good for us players and good for your business, Blizzard. Win-win again.