OK, so maybe PC gaming isn’t dead, dying or even on a downswing, with Facebook titles, free to play online Web browser outings and digital game downloads all actually helping broaden computer games’ reach further and boost profitability levels higher than the industry has ever seen. But with social network games and casual games grabbing the majority of the headlines and profits lately, many consider Blizzard’s newly launched sci-fi real-time strategy game StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty to be a bellwether title, with its sales ultimately destined to indicate whether or not the market for hardcore PC games can still thrive. (Just don’t tell the guys at Valve – given Steam’s recent performance, they’re liable to laugh you out of the building.)
We agree somewhat with the sentiment; despite the recent scandal over wanting to require users to use real names in online forums, any Blizzard launch, including upcoming massively multiplayer add-on World of Warcraft: Cataclysm, is a major event for the PC gaming world. (Especially in South Korea, where StarCraft tournaments are televised, and professional gamers feted with fame and fortune.) Credit a commitment to quality and legacy of bestselling games from WarCraft to Diablo, which has arguably made the company today’s premier developer of games for desktop and laptop computers. But with cash tight for so many households, most of the PC games industry’s business done digitally these days and competition infinitely fiercer today than when the title’s predecessor first shipped in 1998, courtesy of everything from social games to online game downloads and free to play titles, well… It hardly seems fair to pin the fortunes of an entire industry on one single launch, no matter how poignant.
Still, this sequel’s been a long time coming, and the closest thing we’ve seen to an old-school CD-ROM throwback from a major blockbuster game in quite some time. Looking to learn a little bit more about the title, its origins and the potential impact it could have on PC gaming? Our friends over at USA Today provide a nice, albeit brief, rundown in StarCraft II is Launched for a Whole New Era. While times and playing habits have changed vastly since its predecessor’s debut (back when real-time strategy was a dominant force, as was computer gaming), universally, the critics surveyed seem to predict big things for Blizzard’s latest release. Let’s hope so: While it’s not really a fair comparison to look to it as the proverbial canary in the coal mine in terms of the computer game industry’s overall health, it’d be a shame to see so many years and hopes (the game actually topped Wired‘s 2009 vaporware awards list) go to waste.