Starcraft II Demo Now “Starter Edition”

By Jim Rossignol on August 4th, 2011 at 9:40 am.


Blizzard have removed the Starcraft II demo from Battle.net, to replace it with a “Starter Edition” – a move which echoes World Of Warcraft’s free 20-level trial. The Starcraft II starter edition allows you try out a bunch of the single player game, and also the Terrans in custom games and single-player vs AI games. More details below.

The first four missions of the StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty single-player campaign, including Mar Sara 1-3 and the choice to embark on Tychus’s first mission or Dr. Hansen’s first mission.

- The first two Challenges: Tactical Command and Covert Ops.
- Access to the terran race in Custom Games and Single-Player vs. AI.
- Access to the following custom maps (map selection may rotate over time):

Xel’Naga Caverns
Shattered Temple
Discord IV
High Orbit

Any campaign progress and achievements you earn while playing StarCraft II: Starter Edition are automatically saved to your Battle.net account, and will carry over should you ever upgrade from the Starter Edition to the full version of StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty.

That’s a splendid offering, for free. I remain convinced that a really good demo or trial is the best marketing tool that games have. That publishers and developers baulk at creating them seems peculiar to me. I wonder if there is any hard evidence that the cost of making demos outweighs the money earned from their marketing reach? I’ve heard some people suggest that gamers would buy fewer full games because demos are enough to give them a taste of everything, but I am seriously sceptical about that. The only demos I can remember playing to excess were for games that hadn’t come out yet…

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62 Comments »

  1. skyturnedred says:

    “I remain convinced that a really good demo or trial is the best marketing tool that games have. ”

    Unless you wanna sell a shitty game to people.

    • P7uen says:

      Actually, a good demo and shitty game is perfect.

      Save the dev costs of making a good game and just make sure the demo is good enough to sell it.

    • The Sentinel says:

      They’d get away with that once. Then no-one would buy from them again.

    • Jumwa says:

      As if the corporate world can think beyond next quarters results.

    • Rii says:

      “Unless you wanna sell a shitty game to people.”

      Exactly. And these people would presume to lecture me on ethical conduct? Don’t make me laugh.

    • LionsPhil says:

      “Actually, a good demo and shitty game is perfect.”

      It worked to sell Red Faction (the first one) to me.

  2. John Connor says:

    I looked into buying this after playing this demo for a bit. They’ve segregated the game keys into different regions and don’t let you switch, meaning if you import the game you can’t play with people who didn’t. Being an antipodean, that means I’d have to buy a local copy, which costs $90. It costs $60 max everywhere else ($45 for me to import!).

    I’d like to give you my money, Blizzard. But I’m not paying double what the rest of the world is paying.

    • Calneon says:

      That’s unfortunate, why do they stop you from switching region? The only thing I can think of is to force people to buy more copies if they want to play in different places.

    • John Connor says:

      Because if they let people switch regions they couldn’t force people to pay $90 to play the game.

    • The Sentinel says:

      Perhaps Skynet is messing with you, John.

    • Premium User Badge

      jezcentral says:

      I’m sure you could think harder than that if you tried.
      The official line is that it keeps lag manageable, but keeping the games open only to those who are relatively geographically close, rather than half a world away. I’m sure people would like the choice, but this decision is supposed to keep everything fast and premium-game-like. (I have seen a pro game that was wrecked by lag in a US v South Korea match-up, so |I can see how Blizzard wouldn’t want their customers’ gaming experience spoiled like this).

      That’s the explanation from the Blizzard half. I can’t see that the Activision half were weeping bitter tears at this, though.

    • Plankton says:

      Nonetheless, for those of us who have friends in another region it’d be nice if we could at least play a skirmish with those people. Not even speaking about league games or anything that would go towards your stats.
      So yeah, that’s the reason why I never bought SC2.

    • jalf says:

      I’d like to know how it “avoids spoiling my gaming experience” that I can’t play against my friends (many of whom live in different regions).

      If that’s what “fast and premium-game-like” means, you can keep it.

    • John Connor says:

      “this decision is supposed to keep everything fast and premium-game-like.”

      This does not explain in any way why you cannot select a region.

      What exactly is “premium-game-like” about being FORCED to play on European servers, even if you don’t live in Europe, simply because that is the key you bought? It obviously has nothing to do with the service and everything to do with region locking and price gouging.

    • KikiJiki says:

      The region locking is nothing as convoluted or sinister as you imagine, it’s just how battle.net was set up for WoW and that’s how they are moving forward.

      On the bright side they are doing limited region merging in the ‘main’ regions (NA, EU, KR) with some minor regions (LA, RU, TW)

    • SavageD says:

      I come from the same region as John Connor, and I NEVER bloody buy local games anymore. It’s either Steam, or a UK import (for HALF the fecking price as what they charge down here).

      From my experience region locking is about price gouging, nothing more and they can piss right off with it.

    • Tams80 says:

      To make playing a game enjoyable, there is little reason for region locking. If you can develop a game (with good netcode), it really shouldn’t be hard to offer people different lists of servers from different regions and also let them choose specific regions, or just random (all) regions. For those too lazy to make the few extra clicks to find an appropriate server, all it takes is a big button along the lines of “Find best game”. If Jagex can do it with RuneScape Blizzard have little excuse.

      That is unless they are in it for the money.

    • KikiJiki says:

      @Tams80

      The thing is there IS noticeable lag between regions, EU to NA is playable but slight, KR to NA is variable and EU to KR is ‘not gonna happen’ levels.

    • Starky says:

      The solution is pretty simple though – and that is an enforced latency.

      So basically if 2 people are playing on the NA servers, and one of them is from the EU – you can toggle a setting which gives the NA player a latency roughly equal to that of the EU player.

      One of the odd things about SC2, or many RTS games is that they are perfectly playable at high latency, but you kind of have to get used to it. Once you get the hang of it and start thinking ahead of the delay, factoring it into your actions it is no longer an issue.

      obviously one person having a 250 ms latency and the other a 50ms latency is an unfair advantage, but if you set them both to 250, it works quite well – I know this from having played games against other European friends on the NA servers.

      I agree that they should NOT open it up on ladder, but for custom games, a worldwide option would be nice.
      Unfortunately, as mentioned it isn’t easily doable for Blizzard due to the way they constructed B.net 2 for WoW.

    • esiex3 says:

      Just FYI, if you get the SEA version, you also have access to a free NA account too.

    • Tuan says:

      @jezcentral “I’m sure people would like the choice, but this decision is supposed to keep everything fast and premium-game-like.”

      That’s BS, just sort the games by latency by default when people search randomly. TADA, I’ve just gotten you to the fastest game possible and also allow you to play with anyone you want.

  3. Starayo says:

    Not to mention a free way to view replay files!

  4. P7uen says:

    Bring back shareware!

  5. MrMud says:

    This is a really good way of doing demos, especially with the part that you can keep all your progress and stats as soon as you buy the game.

  6. BadHat says:

    UT99 had a really bulky demo. I played it so much that I was just about bored of it when I got the full game a year later.

    Just about…

    • davidek says:

      Unreal Tournament demo was awesome, a mini game in itself. Strangely, my computer at the time couldn’t run the full version at the time, only the demo. Anyone else have experienced games where the demo is easier on (real) system requirements?

    • The Sentinel says:

      UT99 introduced me to the awesome that is Instagib. I must have played that thing to death before the actual game came out. Then I bought the game, discovered even more awesome, then discovered the mod scene (Dark Magic! Assassins! A full suite of Transformers Models!)…buying the full game was one of the best purchases of my life and I owe it all to that demo.

  7. PatrickSwayze says:

    I get the impression we don’t get demos any more because in recent times, games aren’t as good as they used to be.
    There’s a hell of a lot of games I wouldn’t have bought on launch if i’d played demo, and some I’ve bought on budget or on sale and thought, wow, this is a steal but would’ve been worth the full asking price.
    I’m absolutely sure its publishers hedging their bets on selling average games, that’s responsible for the decline of the demo.
    Though, I’m also sure the Deus Ex leak was intentional was in recent times. But I’ve remained strong on that one. I shall wait.

  8. Anjiro says:

    Another smart move by Blizzard.

    • Milky1985 says:

      “Another smart move by Blizzard”

      Considering there recent moves you mean “For once a smart move by blizzard” :P

  9. Frosty840 says:

    Wasn’t there supposed to be a full-priced Starcraft 2 expansion out already, and another on the way, to form a complete, singleplayer “Starcraft 2 plotline” trilogy-thing?

    What happened to that?

    • Nallen says:

      I don’t think Heart of the Swarm was ever meant to be out yet, no. It’s coming though.

    • Xocrates says:

      I believe they stated quite some time ago that they expect to take two years between installments. The Zerg one is set for next year, and the Protoss one should in theory arrive in 2014

  10. Premium User Badge

    Shakermaker says:

    Too bad the friends list doesn’t work in this Starter Edition. I own the game and wanted to set up a casual game with a buddy of mine who downloaded the new demo, but we weren’t able to add each other. That kinda sucks.

  11. RF says:

    I’d buy it, but I’m not paying £30 for it. I’d pay £20, but not £30.

    It’s amusing because Blizzard has (apparently) told stores they can’t drop the price.

    • Starky says:

      For good reason, Blizzard games sell for £20 10 years after release – and dropping the price, or putting it on sale hurts their long term sales in a way which no other company would suffer.

      Blizzard games never drop in price and still sell loads.

      Best you can hope for is a battle chest containing SC2 and the 2 expansions for £50 in 5 years time.

  12. The Sentinel says:

    “I’ve heard some people suggest that gamers would buy fewer full games because demos are enough to give them a taste of everything, but I am seriously sceptical about that.”

    It’s the worst excuse in the world. So transparently bullshit it’s actually offensive to listen to, insulting to the intelligence of everything with an I.Q higher than a shoe.

    Blizzard should be praised for not only keeping the demo alive but making theirs so substantial to boot. Good on ye, lads.

    • LionsPhil says:

      The closest I can think of that happening was the Mercenaries 2 demo scratching the violent city-destroying mayhem itch enough that I wasn’t desperate enough to by the full game. Likewise Crysis 1.

      But the killer in both cases was DRM (and for Crysis a lack of free time to dedicate to anything that wasn’t drop-in muck-about quit-out), else I’d have at least snapped them up on budget by now.

  13. Premium User Badge

    Crimsoneer says:

    Great news. I haven’t been willing to throw my cash at Starcraft because it’s still ridiculously expensive, but hey, now it’s freeish :P

  14. Koozer says:

    I don’t understand how this isn’t a demo. I’m pretty sure I remember paying RTS demos in the past that offer a few missions and a few skirmish maps.

    • The Sentinel says:

      Oh, it absolutely is a demo. It’s just the marketing men want to label everything in a way that hints at the money to come. “Demo” doesn’t quite get the $’s rolling in the eyes like “Starter Edition” does.

    • LionsPhil says:

      Well, I think the migration of demo progress to the full game might be novel. It also strongly implies that the demo—sorry, Starter Edition—will be kept patched to run off the same codebase as the game proper, which can be a real issue with “well, apparently this game got patched to work on my hardware, but the demo is still v1.0 and just crashes to desktop—do I chance it?”.

  15. fuggles says:

    On the demo front, I believe that giving all steam games free access for a limited period would solve their problems. Length of the trial would depend on the length of the game, for example rocket knight would be 20 minutes whereas Star Craft 2 would be a couple of hours. This would mean developers don’t have to spend money on demos as steam would just cut their game off and I could see if I enjoy playing their game and if they would enjoy my money.

    I know that Steam can do this as when I’ve gifted things to people they’ve had like 24 hours to play the game. I appreciated that SC2 doesn’t use Steam, but the principle applies.

    • LionsPhil says:

      I hate time-limited demos like that. It encourages unnaturally rushed play. Especially if I need to get up and feed the cat or something halfway through. “Oops, there goes all your time allowance.” Likewise track-limited demos like Audiosurf or Beat Hazard.

      If I can only play your demo once you’ve just thrown away the chance for me to see the icon on my desktop a week later and think “hey, maybe I’ll give that another shot”, and end up hooked enough to buy the full thing. Dangle exciting new playthings out of my reach until I go for my wallet; don’t say “FUNTIME IS OVER, PAY UP OR GET OUT”.

      Steam free weekends are good for multiplayer-only games, though, and the timespan on offer a) is the same for everyone, so there will be players (huge help for little games like Altitude) b) is long enough that you can stop playing it and see if you feel like going back to it later.

  16. Brutal Deluxe says:

    Which is probably more of the game than I have played since buying it *sigh*

  17. Nemon says:

    It is a cool game because that picture is of a fellow smoking a cigar. It appeals to everyone wanting cool.

  18. Tei says:

    Note for these with caps. Is a 7GB download.

    • Corrupt_Tiki says:

      I find that is the main problem with demo’s these days. Time/size to download, not worth the payoff imo. I mean a demo for GTA IV or something, that game is like 14-15gb of hugeness, I’m not sure how much smaller they could make a demo, but still, I think 7gb is a little on the heavy side.

      Never the less, I rather have demo’s than not have them! :>

    • Rhin says:

      @Corrupt_Tiki:

      The 7GB isi probably because it really bundles the full game engine — possibly the most exciting feature is that you can watch replays using the Starter Edition — recent tournaments such as NASL and MLG have been releasing replay packs of pro-level play, and now everyone can watch those replays for free.

  19. BloodPukeSalvation says:

    I feel like a demo before release that allows you to play XX ammount of hours (note that its 2 digits because 1 hr demos suck) OR unlimited play until the game is released… then the demo is only available for another week or so.

    In other words… release a proper demo but cease its functionality on or shortly after game release. This way… you’re bound to buy it should you have enjoyed it enough to want to keep playing.

    as for post release demos same applies… give it xx hours or a short window of opportunity… say… 2-3 weeks.

    I suppose steam does this with their free weekends. I think these are great. Don’t think i’ve actually purchased any games because of it but anything I’m ever interested in gets a free weekend when im out of town or extremely busy that whole weekend.

    • RF says:

      Except that would ruin the current overhyping sales machine.

      They don’t focus on making a quality product (except to the degree that you will purchase the next one), they focus on this formula.
      1. Hype a game to high heaven with half-truths or blatant bullshit (hi Fable 3).
      2. Don’t let any real information out and thank god for NDAs.
      3. Make lots of pre-order stuff so people will buy in early.
      4. ???
      5. Profit!!!!

    • Baka says:

      Well, SC2 has that as well. Only they are called “guest passes”. 7 hours of play or somesuch days before it’s locked out again.

    • Rii says:

      Possibly the most terrible idea I’ve encountered all week. “Hey, you who didn’t buy our game in Week 1, well as punishment now we’re not even going to let you try it, because we really aren’t interested in your money.”

    • BloodPukeSalvation says:

      @rii

      dont think so. its my belief that one of the reasons developers dont make demos anymore is becuase sometimes thats all it takes to satisfy a potential buyer. its like a stripper giving away the goods THEN asking for a lapdance but by that time you’re not so interested. said stripper would not make much money doing her job backwards that way.

  20. Hmm-Hmm. says:

    Hmm. ‘offline play is unavailable to Starter Edition players’. So.. what does this mean.. that you have to have an active net connection all the time?

  21. Premium User Badge

    Carra says:

    The only good reason not to bring out a demo is to prevent people from seeing how shitty your game is.
    In the case of Starcraft 2 no such fear is needed.

  22. nafe says:

    I played the Just Cause 2 demo absolutely endlessly, though that was mainly because it came out before the full release. I bought it on release day at full price from Steam, something I never do with steamworks titles as they’re always much cheaper at retail. Plus, that game was down from £30 to about £4 within a few months but no regrets, man that game is awesome.

  23. Premium User Badge

    shoptroll says:

    If they don’t do this with Diablo III on launch they’re missing a golden opportunity.

    And yes, more games need to have demos released before launch. I’ve never understood why companies go through all the trouble of making demo builds for E3 and only showing them to such a small, but vocal, minority of gamers. We’ve got things like BitTorrent and digital distribution sites, bandwidth is a lot less of an issue nowadays than it was a decade ago. Just throw the demos online for us to play!

    • Starky says:

      Because more often than not those “demo’s” are wobbly broken bug-ridden beta code which only work in the fixed environment of a company booth, where they can have a technician standing over to quickly solve any issues – working on a clean machine with known hardware.

      Releasing them would have more negative impact than positive.

      releasing a shitty demo to a good game is worse by far than not releasing a demo at all.

  24. Premium User Badge

    yhancik says:

    Isn’t there a version of Windows called “Starter Edition”?

    Come to think of it, “Starcraft II Professional” would almost make sense. Not sure what to think of “Starcraft II Enterprise” though.

  25. Juuuhan says:

    Well that’s a nice move atleast, though I won’t probably buy it just yet mainly cause of their decisions with battlenet and the release of only one campaign, which in my opinion is not a valid way to treat their fans just cause they want to make more profit. I’d rather support developers who really cares about their fans rather than to hold part of the game back to make money or worrying too much about piracy, that said I’m a bit confused on what purpose this starter edition will have.

    The sole purpose of getting a game like SC 2 have always been the skirmish mode and to play multiplayer and while it make sense not to allow people to play with other races in skirmish it’s still a bit redundant since you could just aswell then buy it instead of getting the starter edition (unless you plan on playing with Terrans further on in skirmish mode and multiplayer)

    It’s also a bit redundant if once the two other campaigns are released a similar starter edition will be released for the other races since that just feels like Blizzard are holding fans back, and if such a possibility isn’t released, it will instead be a slap in the face for every player who wish to test the game with either Protoss or Zerg.

    A better way would rather be, to promise people who have bought SC 2 that they either will get the following campaigns for free or for a great discount. Maybe then I will consider picking this game up.

    Side note, one bloody epic demo was KKND, I still enjoyed that demo even after I got the full game since it actually had maps that wasn’t in the full game (strangely enough)