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Ready to Buy Starcraft II Three Times?

You'd better be, if you want to play all three factions' single-player campaigns.

"You will wait and you will like it, boy."
While we're over here in Japan busting out coverage at the Tokyo Game Show, sheer pandemonium is apparently breaking out in Anaheim, CA, scene of the annual Blizzard fan orgy Blizzcon. News fresh off the wire says the ol' Blizz is splitting Starcraft II into not just two but three retail boxed products, one focusing around the single-player campaign for each of the Terran, Zerg, and Protoss factions. The three games will come in that order, with the subtitles Wings of Liberty, Heart of the Swarm, and Legacy of the Void.

Man, my initial reaction was to get really angry about this, like Blizzard said "We know you'll pay for three games. Now do it." But considering all they've said previously about the Starcraft II single-player experience--the branching story paths, the adventure elements, the in-game economy and commerce model--it seems just as likely that the design process simply got away from them and they couldn't fit all their ambitions for each race into a single product and get it out the door in a timely manner. At least, I want to believe that.

It also sounds like each campaign will be as dense as the entirety of the first Starcraft. Each one of these boxes will run you 26 to 30 missions, with non-linear story paths in the middle that lead to a fixed endgame. If you recall the heady year of 1998, you only got about eight linear missions out of each campaign in the original Starcraft, so even if you only get one of these boxes, you're still looking at a net gain.

GameSpot quoted Blizzard design master Rob Pardo as follows.

Pardo also said that the second two releases could be considered expansion packs, but that "we really want them to feel like stand-alone products."

So I think (or at least hope) that sheds some light on the pricing structure of the set. Maybe it's a full-priced initial entry and then a couple of $20 add-ons to round out the experience. I'd be okay with that. But I think I can speak for the entire human race in saying that three full-priced Starcraft II games in quick succession would be a little offensive.

The other big question is multiplayer. Do you get all three playable races out of this first Terran product? The Zerg and Protoss will probably have to be more or less finished and balanced for that first game to function properly, so I'm guessing the answer is "yes." Besides, fans would riot if they had to wait extra months to play as their favorite race.

Wait, the other other big question is, what's the release schedule? I'm less interested in when the first game is coming--because who knows when that will be--but more curious about how quickly the other two games will follow after Wings of Liberty. Which is not my favorite title, but the other two sound pretty awesome.

We'll harass Blizzard PR when we get back from Japan and see if we can demystify any of this business. I don't think I'll sleep soundly at night until I know.

UPDATE! IGN PC mack Jason Ocampo confirms that each title will be a full standalone product and won't require the others to function. Thanks Chocobo_Blitzer. I'm less inclined to forgive this move after hearing that, I think.
Brad Shoemaker on Google+