Blizzard's 'StarCraft 2' War Chest Rips a Page from the 'Dota 2' Compendium

It only took the better part of a decade, but Blizzard is finally making a Compendium equivalent for ‘StarCraft 2’

Jul 18 2017, 7:00pm

courtesy Blizzard

It's the kind of thing that SC2 fans daydreamed about when the game was at its competitive height: a premium content and cosmetics pack whose sales will help increase the StarCraft 2 tournament prize pool for BlizzCon. But Blizzard's late "come to Jesus" moment, along with a somewhat complicated unlock and revenue model, is also rubbing some fans the wrong way.

The StarCraft 2 War Chest goes on sale tomorrow and you can buy the chest for each race (Terran, Protoss, and Zerg) for $10 apiece, or the whole bundle for $25. But what's inside of the War Chest is a little bit complicated. Like the Compendium, the War Chest is intended as a kind of interactive activity book as much as a premium content bundle. Ultimately all the cosmetic items—70 new skins, sprays, portraits, and emoticons—will be sold separately for anyone who wants them. What the War Chest lets you do is get hold of the stuff early and cheaply, assuming you manage to unlock it all before it "closes" on November 4 at the start of BlizzCon.

You just have to complete challenges and milestones in order to unlock all the items. After November 4, those challenges go away and it seems like you'll have to wait to buy whatever you didn't manage to unlock.

As for how demanding those challenges are going to be, that remains to be seen. My suspicion is it's mostly going to be about getting yourself and your friends back into the game. "Play 5 Archon Mode" matches and stuff like that. Though it would be hilariously cruel if unlocking everything required increasing one tier on the competitive ladder. Just imagine the armies of ex-Platinum players who haven't played seriously years, all trying to grind their way back up the ladder against people who have played consistently since Legacy of the Void.

What's really interesting is the fact that 25% of the revenue from the War Chest will go toward the BlizzCon StarCraft 2 prize pool… but only up to $200,000 (the prize pool currently sits at $500,000). After that, those revenues go to a general fund for the 2017/2018 StarCraft 2 esports scene.

This is similar to the Dota 2 model that has managed to set record prize pools for The International for every year since the Compendium debuted before TI3. But that "prize cap" is an odd wrinkle, and one that may put a bit of a damper on fans' enthusiasm for the bundle. People love watching the prize number go higher on Dota 2 prize pools, but will increasing the BlizzCon prize pool by just a couple hundred grand and then dedicating the rest to unspecified StarCraft esports spending ignite a similar passion?

It kind of seems like Blizzard is trying to get fans pumped about fan-supported esports, and then sitting them down for a responsible conversation about sustainability for the StarCraft 2 World Championship Series. "Kids, you may think big prize pools are 'lit' now but what's really 'fire' is a strong infrastructure and defraying the costs of loss leader marketing strategies."

Mostly, however, fans just seem happy to finally receive the kind of fun cosmetic items they were asking for even before Heart of the Swarm came out. StarCraft 2's community often felt—sometimes justly, sometimes not— like Blizzard was letting the franchise languish while the economy of competitive games passed it by. Now, Blizzard is finally offering some kind of path for StarCraft's famously devoted fans to support a competitive scene they've long-wanted to help sustain. We'll see if it goes far enough.