Irvine-based video game giant Blizzard Entertainment releases its newest title "StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm" on Tuesday, drawing more than 1,000 fans to an exclusive launch party at the Irvine Spectrum Monday night after the ultracompetitive game launched Monday on three other continents.
The original "StarCraft," made in 1998, became a cultural phenomenon in South Korea, where it is played professionally and broadcast on TV. The 2010 sequel, "StarCraft II," holds a Guinness record for fastest selling real-time strategy game, selling 1 million copies in the first 24 hours. "Heart of the Swarm," an addition to "StarCraft II," expands upon the 2010 game, bringing a new single-player story, new units and tweaks to the online play.
"For the casual player, we've made it easier to play, easier to learn and more fun. For the experienced player, we've added more depth and strategy," Blizzard President Mike Morhaime said.
Click here to watch a video of the launch celebration in Irvine.
The global celebrations hosted by Orange County's biggest game company started in Australia and South Korea at 3 a.m. Monday and spread to France by the afternoon as servers around the world let gamers log in to play the latest "StarCraft II."
In Orange County, Blizzard planned a midnight game launch in Irvine. Hours earlier, fans filled the Big Wheel Court at the Spectrum for a chance to get a copy of the game signed by the local developers and artists who created it.
Blizzard continues its effort to draw more people to play competitively and also watch online gaming as a spectator sport. The company hosted a massive gaming competition in Shanghai last year, supports community-organized watch parties in sports bars and has become part of Major League Gaming, a professional video game league, in the United States.
The company has not revealed its next projects beyond "StarCraft II" and a free-to-play offshoot called "Blizzard All-Stars." But after a year hiatus, the company will return to Anaheim on Nov. 8 and 9 to host the two-day BlizzCon event, where the company is expected to announce what's next.
"StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm" starts at $40 but requires the purchase of the earlier "StarCraft II" as well.