Getting StarCraft II out of the door was an extremely costly venture for Blizzard, not that it matters in the long run.
Blizzard's style of making a videogame that is ready "when it's ready" sure costs a lot of money. The Wall Street Journal is reporting (subscription required) that Blizzard's StarCraft II cost more than $100 million to develop. Add in other expenses such as advertising and such, and StarCraft II becomes quite an expensive game to bring to market.
Don't forget that some of that advertising budget included putting StarCraft II on the sides of two 747s. Is this huge sum of money spent exorbitant in any way for the series? Probably not when you consider how StarCraft was still making its way into the top ten of PC game sales more than ten years after it was released in 1998, and has sold more than 11 million copies to date. StarCraft II has the potential to move just as many copies as the original, if not more.
Blizzard President Mike Morhaime told the Wall Street Journal that he hopes to recoup some of that $100 million investment by bringing in players from World of Warcraft, which is more popular worldwide than breathing. "We've brought in a lot of new players in the beta testing who've been playing World of Warcraft but have never tried Starcraft," he said. Including an exclusive World of Warcraft pet in StarCraft II's collector's edition, which is already sold out just about everywhere I've looked, didn't hurt in that regard when tens of thousands of WoW players will pay $25 for a mount.
Activision-Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick has described StarCraft II as one of the company's seven "pillars of opportunity," which could each provide more than $500 million and up to even $1 billion in profit over the total product life span. With millions of copies expected to sell this year alone at $60 a pop, StarCraft II could be in the black before we celebrate 2011.
We can't ignore that the release of StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty is the first in the StarCraft II trilogy, focusing on the Terran race for now and moving on to the Protoss and Zerg later, so yeah, I don't think $1 billion is crazy to expect at all. In fact, it might be a little low. With these crazy amounts of profit, why not spend even more in the future? I wonder what a $200 million game would be like?
StarCraft II will begin to amass its massive profits on July 27.
[UPDATE]The Wall Street Journal admitted it made an error with the $100 million figure. It turns out that amount was spent on World of Warcraft, not StarCraft II. Blizzard hasn't released its budget for StarCraft II, but it probably cost somewhere between $1 million and $1 billion.