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What Happened to StarCraft?

The legendary RTS series has seemingly been abandoned by its creators.

by Alex Levine

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There’s an old saying that’s used everywhere in all walks of life; nothing lasts forever. This is arguably the truest of all statements as things tend to fade away after a certain time. This also applies to video games, and with a market that is evolving from one thing to another, a lot of games aren’t able to survive after their prime has passed.

Is the most popular RTS on its way out?

Enter StarCraft, without a doubt the most dominant Real Time Strategy game series in history. Blizzard Entertainment’s baby took the world by storm way back in 1998, and ever since it’s been looked at as the shining example of how to make a perfect RTS title. It’s also taken its place in the annals of history as it was one of the first games to really spearhead the video game competition landscape, better known today as esports.

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StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty came out in 2010 after years of development with its parallel episodes Heart of the Swarm and Legacy of the Void following a few years after that. The sequel titles pushed the envelope in terms of the RTS mechanics and overall presentation, and while a lot of fans still prefer the original title, they definitely left their mark on the genre.

Blizzard isn’t promoting Starcraft to investors at this point

So why bring all of this up? Well Activision Blizzard’s Second-Quarter 2019 Financial Results were recently revealed. Despite being a numbers heavy report, the most important aspect to take away here is a specific excerpt that was pointed out by Kotakus Jason Schreier: “Across Call of Duty, Candy Crush, Warcraft, Hearthstone, Overwatch, and Diablo, we are expanding our development teams so that we can accelerate the delivery of content in our pipeline, pursue new business models, broaden our communities, and delight our players.”

At first glance, this seems like your generic company report on what they are going to be working on in the foreseeable future. Well that’s the problem, it lists what games they will be developing, and StarCraft is clearly not listed here. Now this could be interpreted in a couple of ways.

The first is that the company might be withholding information about new content for the franchise and is waiting for this years BlizzCon to make such reveals. The second is the more likely one; they simply don’t have anything new for the series. Unfortunately, the latter here has some evidence to back it up, all of which took place this year.

It started when the company canceled what was going to be a StarCraft First Person Shooter, a project that apparently was in development for more than two years. It was bad enough that this new IP was scrapped, but it was also revealed that the reasoning behind this was to reinforce the development of the upcoming Diablo titles, as well as a rumored new Overwatch game.

From a business standpoint, this makes sense, as the company has investors to please as well as taking a real close look at what could be a better choice financially. However, I can’t help but think about how a brand new, fresh take on the StarCraft universe could be considered a serious money making prospect. Blizzard actually attempted this before with the infamous StarCraft Ghost, a game that was nearly completed before being canned altogether.

There have only been a couple major content updates in recent years

From a fans perspective, this is probably looked at as another nail in the coffin, maybe the final nail. StarCraft’s fanbase is legendary, with their never say die attitude and refusal to give up on the game that they have devoted their lives to. However, such a thing has little meaning in the world of corporations and politics, and thanks to this we haven’t seen a whole lot of significant updates or new games.

In the past couple of years, the StarCraft franchise has received two major content updates. The most important of these was StarCraft Remastered, which released in 2017. A complete visual rework of the original that also kept the RTS gameplay intact, fans of the series were overjoyed with this title, and it brought the franchise back to the mainstream audience, albeit for a brief time. The other was very recent, last month in fact. StarCraft: Cartooned, launched for Remastered and is a graphical overhaul that makes literally everything in the game a Carbot Animations visual.

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Other than these two big pieces, the series hasn’t really had anything noteworthy to boast about. Just last year, during the 20th anniversary of StarCraft, all we got were some special portraits, icons, sprays, and co-op commanders. There was no major celebration for the game that seemingly frog-leaped Blizzard to the top of the stratosphere at the end of the 20th century.

When a series starts to become stale and overly repetitive, the most common thing to do is look elsewhere for a fun time. When this becomes evident the company needs to inject some life into their IP. Looking forward to new and exciting things for a video game franchise is what being a fan is all about.

Maybe Blizz-Con 2019 will paint a clearer picture of what’s to come

Sadly, this doesn’t seem to be the case with StarCraft. While we will more than likely have some new updates leading up to BlizzCon 2019, don’t expect Blizzard to unveil anything spectacular. Though it does beg the question, how long until the StarCraft World Championships is abolished? We already had to suffer though the cancellation of the Heroes Global Championship, which was the esport circuit for Heroes of the Storm. On top of that, the development team was shortened significantly, all due to the game not being as popular as Overwatch or Hearthstone.

This is what StarCraft’s fate is looking like. Sure it could continue to function for those who play it every day, and it most likely will. Still, the writing is on the wall, and Activision Blizzard isn’t necessarily shying away from that in this recent financial report. StarCraft’s impact on the video game industry is without question, which makes me very sad as I come to the most logical conclusion; the company has given up on StarCraft.

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