It has been 12 years since the debut of the PC-based, sci-fi strategy game StarCraft, which has sold more than 11 million copies, captured critical acclaim (widely cited in industry lists for being one of the top games of all time) and created an impressive long tail of gameplay from its fans.
After a long wait, those fans will see the first major update to the game (StarCraft II: Wings of Libery) debut this week. Based on U.S. data from Nielsen’s metered PC panel, there has been a monthly average of 180,000+ unique players since January 2008. And the game’s engagement metrics are also notable, with average weekly gameplay still clocking in at over four hours per week. Significantly, StarCraft fans are also quite loyal to publisher/developer Activision/Blizzard – the top two alternately played games from these players are the game maker’s World of Warcraft and Warcraft III: Reign of Chaos.
Rooted in real-time strategy gameplay (where players determine the timing, growth, advancement and positioning of units/soldiers) StarCraft was cited as redefining the genre by including three distinct races : Protoss, Zerg and Terran. The game also was responsible for the large growth of Blizzard’s Battle.net service, which hosts the multiplayer component of play. What can the video game market, Activision/Blizzard and fans of the game expect from StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty? For starters, this first of three installments will be more focused on the Terrans, which represent the exiled human race. The single-player campaign will take on a non-linear path, which is a departure for typical Blizzard games. Additionally, the game will feature a much more robust multiplayer offering than the original game.
According to Nielsen Video Game Tracking data, interest in the title skews slightly more male than for a typical game with the largest over-index observed for males 25-54 at about 44% of likely buyers (compared to approximately 31% for a given video game included in tracking). This older skew fits in logically, as big portions of the fan base have been playing the game over the past twelve years, and have moved beyond the teenage years and early adulthood.
Anticipation for StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty is clearly high as judged by the high propensity of interested buyers to claim they have already pre-ordered the game or will buy it during the first week of release. 43% of interested buyers fall into this category, which is substantially higher than the norm of 16%. When focusing on just males 18-34 that number jumps even higher to 53%. Additionally, online buzz about the game spiked when the release date was announced in early May and has trended up closer to the actual release.