So, today’s column is going to be a very short, specific call to action.
It’s a simple fact – 50% of all StarCraft 2 players have only played the single player modes. These people have come for the campaign, played it, and lacking anything else to do and interest in the competitive scene, have left for other things. These players have been lost from the SC user base, hence, The Lost Players.
It’s a bit ironic to me that we have players who just leave, when Blizzard is known as one of the best companies ever to convince people to keep replaying the same content, over and over. Millions of World of Warcraft players will endlessly grind the same old dungeons and raids (known as endgame content) for incremental upgrades that go towards one single goal – improving your character.
Couldn’t this same concept be applied to an RTS? For a second, let’s ignore the competitive aspect, and instead focus on players who like playing strategy games without the stress of winning and losing on ladder – players who simply like to build up bases and command armies. After all, the RTS genre does have a rich history in non-competitive formats.
What does a person like this want out of an RTS? The campaign is a good place to start, a single player experience that slowly fleshes out your race’s units, spells, and strategies. But what if there was more to do? What if there was an endgame for an RTS? Here’s what I would propose:
- Co-op campaign levels where two or more players could play together, in a controlled map akin to the campaign, against a variable-difficulty AI opponent.
- A leveling/talent system that applies only to co-op campaign mode.
- Matchmaking for co-op campaign mode.
Now, players have somewhere to go after they’ve completed single player. With the leveling/talent system, they would have a reason to grind out games (for unique skins, bonuses, prestige levels, whatever), and with matchmaking, they would always have somebody to play with. This is the exact same draw that WoW players feel, only applied to an RTS.
Suddenly, people can form clubs where they play these co-op campaign levels together (“Who wants to run Korhal?”), and can continue staying involved in the game we all want to keep growing. As an added bonus, community map-makers can get involved in making creative levels for the campaign matchmaking system, giving them more to do than just sticking to ladder maps.
Yes, the Arcade does exist, but it seems to be much more geared towards non-RTS experiences like turret defense, RPGs, or micro games. It seems that somehow, the traditional RTS experience has gotten lost somewhere along the way. There needs to be something non-competitive for casual people to play that keeps those 50% around.
The bottom line is, keeping people playing SC2 is good for e-sports because it increases the game’s user base. It keeps people familiar with the game, with the units, and with the strategies. By reaching out to those players in a way that is familiar, you can not only grow e-sports by giving it more fans, but increase their enjoyment of the game as well as they see different ways to play.
Remember that this is a column, which is my opinion, and if you don’t agree with the column, feel free to post your disagreement. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter if it’s 50%, or 48.5% or whatever. The bottom line is that only about 200,000 people play this game actively online right now, out of about 5-6 million that bought it. Yes, apparently those numbers have doubled since the addition of unranked play. I would still very much like to see those numbers go higher, and stay consistently higher.
Ferguson Mitchell is a columnist for ESFI, a caster for the Collegiate StarLeague, and a co-host of the Data Mined Out podcast. Feel free to shoot him your feedback at www.twitter.com/AlphaFerg.