April is an absolutely glorious month for anyone with a PC. Something magical has happened. Blizzard has given us a gift. StarCraft, one of the most notable and beloved real-time strategy games of our time, is now free. The company decided to go ahead and patch the 19 year old game, the first patch it has received in eight years, mind you, and give it away to any Windows or Mac player who wants it. You get a Zerg, he gets a Zerg, she gets a Zerg, we all to be inducted into the hive mind!
Of course, there is a method to their madness. StarCraft Remastered, an updated and improved version of this game, has been announced. Blizzard is clearly taking part in what is an incredible publicity stunt. But does that devalue the action? Does it invalidate the goodwill gesture? I think not. Rather, it does something wonderful. This is something many companies should consider doing. It’s exposing people to a great game and opening them up to future ones.
I mean, this is StarCraft. Have you ever played it? (I mean, there’s no excuse now if you haven’t!) It is a hallmark. The mechanics in place for gathering, building, expanding, invading, and battling have inspired countless other games. It even doesn’t look that bad for a game its age, a tribute to the effort Blizzard put into it so many years ago. The number of classes and troops available are substantial, and it is engineered in such a way that you could easily invest a hundred hours and go back for another hundred that will be just as fulfilling.
The StarCraft patch Blizzard released only serves to make it better and show this is more than just tossing some trinket to the masses. The alterations are substantial. Compatibility has been improved, so people with current Windows and Mac PCs can actually play it. There are different display modes, an Observer mode, autosaving, online multiplayer updates like Popular Maps, improved lobby behavior, and opponent information displays. There’s even UPnP support, an OpenGL backend, and generally improved Battle.net responsiveness. These are major advances, and they were all made for the sake of giving a major game away for free. That’s huge.
It also is a prime example of how much Blizzard cares for its fans. It is easy to look at an event like BlizzCon, its annual fan event, and be a bit cynical. While the company is providing an outlet for people who love its games, offering swag bags and opportunities to see and do things, it is also making major money off of it. But when Blizzard does a charity event or offers something like an updated version of the original StarCraft for free to anyone who wants it, that’s something to be lauded and applauded. It’s an act that benefits them of course, because of the hype it builds, but we’re clearly getting the better end of the deal when such a thing happens.
Free StarCraft really brightens your day. I mean, it’s a copy of one of the best games ever made that has been patched up so it’ll run much better on our current systems. It makes us see the game and company that made it, Blizzard, in a new light. It also is such a rare show of goodwill that it both makes us savor it all the more and wonder why other companies couldn’t be so generous. With all of the coming up on 20 year old classics out there, you’d think more developers and publishers would be generous enough to offer them up to the public to bring happiness and get people more excited about upcoming projects.
Image Credit: Yoh-SL