As reported in the news in the OC Register, Blizzard is set to launch the “Heart of the Swarm” expansion to Blizzard’s competitive “StarCraft II” will go on sale March 12, 2013.Â The announcement comes the same week the company is hosting the world championships for “StarCraft II” in Shanghai as Irvine-based Blizzard tries to build on the game’s emerging popularity as spectator sport.
“StarCraft II” was first released in 2010 following a 12-year wait after the original game. Between the releases, the original game has become a competitive gaming phenomenon, particularly in South Korea, where spectators gather in arenas to watch live matches or watch the gaming on television. The sequel is attracting U.S. viewers as well.
“StarCraft II” is a strategy game like chess. But instead of waiting to take turns, players command armies of aliens or humans with different abilities across a battlefield in real time. Players gather supplies, build up bases and eventually try to destroy opposing players.
The highest levels of competitions involve professionals with fingers flying across the keyboard performing hundreds of actions every minute, and professional leagues, including Major League Gaming in the United States, stream the action online for a fee. These streams have given rise to independently organized “BarCraft” events where fans gather at sports bars to watch the streams.
The company is working on adding features to “Heart of the Swarm” to make it easier for newcomers to understand what’s happening in the fast-paced strategy game â€“ like a leaderboard that shows what buildings each player has constructed. If the game were baseball, the feature might be comparable to a box in the corner of the screen that shows which bases have runners.
This weekend Blizzard is hosting the final rounds of the Battle.net World Championship Series. Held over the last eight months, the competition culminates with the Shanghai event this weekend offering more than $500,000 in prizes to players. Thirty-two of the best “StarCraft II” players in the world and 10 “World of WarCraft” teams face off in China.
Blizzard will be streaming the competition free online Friday and Saturday at battle.net/bwc.
“This is our World Cup, in a way, and that’s exciting for us,” said Chris Sigaty, production director for “StarCraft II.”
“Heart of the Swarm” will sell for $39.99 when it goes on sale next year for PC and Mac.