Fans have waited twelve years for it -- and at long last, video gamers can get their hands on "StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty," the sequel to the online multiplayer strategy game for the PC that has become a cult classic of almost legendary proportions.
The game will go on sale at midnight tonight across the country, and many gaming stores are planning midnight release
“The hype is big,” said Senior Games Advisor Daniel Mardakhayev of the Gamestop store on 33rd Street and Broadway in Manhattan -- which will be one of dozens opening at midnight for excited gamers. The store already has about 200 pre-orders -- “a good number for us," said Mardakhayev.
"This is the PC game for us at the moment, it's basically the PC game to go to if you enjoy PC gaming rather than console gaming," he told NBCNewYork.
"The hype is big especially since 'Starcraft I' came out 12 years ago," Mardakhayev said. "The demographic might have changed -- if you were fifteen when it first came out you're 27 now -- but new players will go for Starcraft 2."
And while StarCraft has a devoted following in the U.S., its largest fanbase by far is in South Korea. There, the game is a professional sport that can draw huge crowds.
It’s popular in the U.S., too; in 2007, U.S. colleges created the Collegiate StarLeague, which now has 74 registered institutions, including Princeton, Rensselaer Polytechnic, Stony Brook, and Rutgers.
StarCraft and its much-anticipated sequel are real-time strategy games -- or ‘RTSs’ if you’re game-savvy -- which allow players to build and develop civilizations as well as conduct military campaigns.
It has a single-player mode with a story set in the 26th century, where three species, the human-based Terrans, the insectoid Zerg, and the technologically advanced Protoss, battle for control of a distant sector of the Milky Way.
But the game’s real claim to fame comes from its online multiplayer mode. Gamers play against each other as any of the three races and compete for space, resources, and tactical advantages in an effort to conquer the sector.
When the game was originally released in 1998 it was one of the first of its kind to combine online multiplayer interaction with cutting-edge graphics and scope.
These types of games are called MMORPGs -- which stands for Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game -- and their ranks include the infamous World of Warcraft, by the same company that makes StarCraft, Blizzard Entertainment. StarCraft stands out among MMORPGs and RTSs in general because of its three playable races’ carefully balanced strengths and weaknesses, which allow for complicated strategies and intense competition.
In terms of hype, StarCraft might not be able to match some more mainstream video game releases such as “Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2,” which had the biggest release in entertainment history earlier this year. However, it’s difficult to compare games like Call of Duty -- which was released on the X-Box 360, PS3, Nintendo DS, and PC -- with games like StarCraft, a solely PC phenomenon whose online multiplayer is its claim to fame.