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In a panel at the Valencia eSports Congress, the makers of StarCraft II were asked if they’d consider free-to-play options for their game. Since the strategy flagship is currently one of the only professional gaming events that remain solely as a full price deal, a free option could potentially open it up to a wider audience. According to PCGamesN, Lead designer Dustin Browder replied that Blizzard was “looking at free to play as an option for the multiplayer.” While that’s merely speculation for now, it could potentially benefit the company in the end.
The largest issue right now is coming up with a decent way to implement this. Browder stated: “We don’t know how we would monetise it. While it might be good fun for me to play against someone with only half the units available to them, that’s not going to be an enjoyable experience for them.” The PCGamesN article then ponders the viability between tweaking the experience and adjusting to a free model, but it really shouldn’t be as hard. There is a simpler solution that might work; one that has worked in the past.
A main concern mentioned above is giving all players full access. StarCraft II itself already experimented with this, by offering new players a 14 hour trial. Going one step forward shouldn’t be a big leap from there. Our simple yet effective suggestion thusly would be: Give players the ability to play 1 or 2 rounds per day.
To further illustrate this, we’ll take a look at another platform that successfully used this scheme. Capcom Arcade, a mobile app that offers tons of classic games, lets users play 3 times for free each day. Additional tickets offer more plays and it’s also possible to just buy the game itself for unlimited access. This can be translated for Blizzard in a slightly altered manner. For instance, players could receive tickets to play certain races. Add to that a revolving period of time for each playable race. Here’s how an example of that would go down:
Players receive 10 tickets each week, to play 2 games capped per day for five days a week (or a little less for a full week). Let’s say that during that period it’s “Terran week.” That way, the tickets would be divided as: 2 Protoss tickets, 2 Zerg tickets, 6 Terran tickets. In that case, players still get full access, while not cutting down on races as to prevent the same line-ups. On the other hand it does encourage those free users to either experiment with new races that have more tickets that week, play less of a free experience or upgrade to a full version completely. Buying additional tickets would in lesser extent work as well, but it’s unclear how many of those you’d really need to get by at any given time. It would be strange that free users would dedicate themselves to more than 2 matches per day by continuously using micro-transactions. Though, granted, just having the option available could create cash flow for Blizzard.
The revolving race element is also something that can be experimented with. For instance, some special promotions can yield more tickets that week, solely attempt 1 race for a few “hardcore” days, give an all-round access to all races with 4/4/4 tickets and so on. Just like some social games like SimCity Social or Outernauts have a system that limits playtime, it shouldn’t be complicated for StarCraft II to find a similar yet approachable effort for its multiplayer. It might not have the same overabundance of micro-transactions as those games, but some would argue that these are the worst parts about those timewasting titles anyway.