Blizzard are taking a fresh stab at a controversial concept with the latest StarCraft II update, offering a selection of community-built mods at premium prices. These premium Arcade maps will launch with the 4.3.0 update, finally bringing Blizzard’s promise of a StarCraft II marketplace to fruition after nearly a decade. Both premium maps will be available for $4.99, with proceeds from each purchase split between Blizzard and the creators - though we don’t know exactly how that divide breaks down.
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ARK Star is a turn-based, tactical RPG all about the Protoss, following a team of templars on a mission to destroy a new weapon. You’ll level up and unlock new abilities for your squad, uncover and craft new loot, and customize your squad for maximum effectiveness. Creator Daniel “Pirate” Altman says on Reddit that a single playthrough is roughly 3-4 hours, and there’s an option for a new game plus playthrough. Of the mod’s story, he also says “legal would probably want me to say it is explicitly not canon.”
The other big premium mod is Direct Strike, an evolution of one of the game’s most popular Arcade maps from creator Tya. The new version of the map will replace the old one, but all the basic features will remain free. Upgrading to the premium version will net you access to four new game modes, “including Sabotage, which conceals players’ staging areas and allows for unit bans, and Switch mode, where players can change their race mid-game.” Free players can also play these modes if they join a premium player’s lobby.
“Paid mods” tend to call to mind Bethesda’s controversial (and failed) attempt to monetize Skyrim updates a few years ago, or their almost-as-unpopular follow-up with the Fallout 4 Creation Club. Other games have managed to present more palatable ways of highlighting paid community content, like Cities: Skylines. Of course, since Blizzard first announced their take on concept way back in 2009, their ideas do predate the controversy by some time.