StarCraft 2 is coming and the looming shadow of what could be the biggest release of 2010 hangs heavily over us, filling our thoughts. It’s practically impossible to escape StarCraft 2’s influence, in other words.
So, when we got a chance to sit down for tea and biscuits with a heavily jetlagged Frank Pearce, Blizzard’s Executive Vice President of Product Development, and a slightly more lively Bob Colayco, Blizzard’s PR Manager, how could we possibly pass it up?
Bit-tech:Let’s start with an obvious and difficult question – why do you think the StarCraft franchise has endured for so long?
Frank Pearce: Well, for us, with the Battle.net service and so on, we really want our games to be balanced and viable for as long as there are fans playing them. So even today, 12 years after the release of the original, we’re still supporting the original StarCraft on Battle.net and we’ll continue to do so even after the release of the sequel.
And, you know, StarCraft is one of those games you can pick up and sit down with and just bang out a match in under 20 minutes and it’s a really fun experience. Also, I don’t think that…well, fun isn’t defined by technology – it’s defined by the gameplay experience.
This is not Frank Pearce
BT:I realised you probably can’t give specific figures, but if you’re still supporting the game then I’ve got to ask if you’re still seeing surges in sales and so on as a result of that? Is it still successful for you in that sense?
Frank: Oh, yeah. That’s the great thing about our company, our sales team and our marketing team; they don’t look at a product and assume that the lifespan for it is only six months, right? They look at it as a product that’s going to last for years.
I don’t know what the retail market specifically is like in the UK, but in the US you can still go down to Best Buy and pick up a copy of Brood War.
BT:Now, e-sports are obviously tied very closely to StarCraft 2 and are huge in Korea and starting to take off in the US, but definitely here in the UK it’s not big yet at all. We wouldn’t see StarCraft players being recognised on the street, that’s for sure. Do you have any thoughts on why e-sports are taking off in some places and not in others?
This is not Sarah Palin
Frank: I have no idea, I really don’t. Um…yeah, no clue. Bob, do you?
Bob Colayco: It’s hard to say. I guess there was just a unique environment in Korea at the time the game came out and the culture there is to play games in PC Cafes, not so much holed up in your bedroom on your own. Over there it’s like an evening out, to go to a PC Café there and, while it may seem a bit strange to us, it’s not to them. There’s something about playing with others that heightens the experience, even for bad games. You play a bad game in multiplayer and, if you’re with a bunch of friends, it can be really funny. So, take a good game and imagine how much it can improve.
Frank: Another factor, certainly in Korea anyway, is that so many players play StarCraft – whether professionally or not – that they have a really, really strong understanding of the game and strategies behind it. So, when they watch a StarCraft match then they understand the intricacies of it better than another person does. So, when the TV networks broadcast StarCraft matches, the viewers have such a solid understanding that it’s a real, meaningful experience for them. I think that in other regions there just isn’t that same intimate understanding in terms of what the game is as a competitive multiplayer arena. I think that’s a big factor in Korea.