Blizzard Entertainment is switching the business model of Starcraft II, making a significant portion of the game entirely free-to-play.
Starting on November 14, the game's Wings of Liberty campaign - which shipped with the game in July 2010 - will be free to all users. Blizzard will also grant free access to Starcraft II's co-op mode, and its multiplayer ranked ladder once a player reaches ten unranked wins in a day.
"With the massive Wings of Liberty single-player campaign, endlessly replayable co-op mode, prestigious ranked ladder, comprehensive map-making tools, and more, StarCraft II now delivers the ultimate real-time strategy experience completely free," Blizzard CEO Mike Morhaime said in a statement.
Blizzard will continue to monetise the game through its expansion content: Heart of the Swarm, Legacy of the Void and Nova Covert Ops, which were originally released in 2013, 2015 and 2016 respectively. Each will be available for $14.99 each, or as a collection for $39.99. Anyone who already owns Wings of Liberty can claim Heart of the Swarm for free between November 8 and December 8.
Starcraft II has been a very lucrative product for Activision Blizzard, shipping almost five million units after just six months. Both Heart of the Swarm and Legacy of the Void sold more than one million units within two days, and they are likely to receive a boost in popularity as a result of the new business model.
Starbreeze tried a similar idea with Payday 2, giving away more than five million copies of the base game for a limited time earlier this year, and then selling an "upgrade" an Ultimate Edition that included all of the DLC.
Gearbox also implemented a similar system with Battleborn, allowing free access to a chunk of the multiplayer and selling an upgrade to the full retail version. In that case, though, it wasn't a case of monetising an already successful product, but attempting to rescue a flailing one - ultimately to no avail.
The news that Starcraft II was going free-to-play came out of Blizzcon over the weekend, where the company also announced a new expansion for World of Warcraft, Battle for Azeroth.