Update, November 14: StarCraft II has made its switch to free-to-play today, making the original campaign and all multiplayer open for everyone.
As promised, today has seen the release of StarCraft II as a free-to-play game. The Wings of Liberty campaign is totally free, as are all the multiplayer and skirmish options, including the full ranked ladder once you’ve collected ten wins. If you’ve already purchased Wings of Liberty, you still have time to log in and claim a free copy of Heart of the Swarm.
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What’s a little more surprising is the tone of Blizzard’s announcement. Here’s what we have on social media.
Number of hours it takes to earn the full StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty Campaign: 0— StarCraft (@StarCraft) November 14, 2017
Number of hours before you can play ANY Co-op Commander in StarCraft II: 0— StarCraft (@StarCraft) November 14, 2017
Number of pay-to-win mechanics in StarCraft II: 0— StarCraft (@StarCraft) November 14, 2017
Free to Play - Now Live! pic.twitter.com/a02OYUCYZU
That’s some S-tier subtweeting, but it’s pretty mild compared to the dogpile already sitting atop EA’s monetization of Battlefront II.
Original Story, November 3: Blizzard opened their annual convention with an announcement intended to bring new players into the fold of their definitive RTS. StarCraft II is going free-to-play, giving full access to the first campaign and competitive multiplayer.
The free-to-play launch begins on November 14, at which point the entire Wings of Liberty campaign will be free. If you already own Wings of Liberty, Heart of the Swarm will be free instead. You'll have to claim the latter by logging into Battle.net and claiming it sometime between November 8 and December 8.
You’ll have full access to the ranked multiplayer ladder, but you'll have to earn it with ten "1st win of the day" achievements in either unranked or versus AI modes. Every co-op commander will be available up to level five, while the full progression for commanders like Raynor, Kerrigan, and Artanis are still free.
It’s not the first step Blizzard have made toward making StarCraft free, as the StarCraft II: Starter Edition made custom maps and content free not so long ago. This is a much bigger chunk of the game, however.
StarCraft II's release as, essentially, three separate games proved to be a confusing one, and part of the reason for the switch was to create an opportunity to put the game under a single umbrella. To that end, the game is now simply referred to as "StarCraft II," with the other expansions being refered to as additional content.
Additional campaigns, whether that be Heart of the Swarm, Legacy of the Void, or Nova Cover Ops will each be available for $14.99, or as a package for $39.99.
On the topic of name changes, the "multiplayer" option is changing to "versus," helping to distinguish competitive play from the co-op modes that Blizzard are continuing to expand.
"StarCraft II is one of the highest-rated PC games of all time, and we’re excited to give even more people around the world a chance to find out why it has inspired such a passionate global community," says Blizzard CEO Mike Morhaime. "With the massive Wings of Liberty single-player campaign, endlessly replayable co-op mode, prestigious ranked ladder, comprehensive map-making tools, and more, StarCraft II now delivers the ultimate real-time strategy experience completely free."
Owners of any previous version of StarCraft II will receive an Eidolon Ghost skin and three additional portraits.