Stolen Pixels #118: A Farce to be Reckoned With



They’re leaving LAN support out of Starcraft 2. That defies understanding. That’s like leaving Deathmatch out of Unreal Tournament. It’s like leaving music out of Guitar Hero. Like leaving cutscenes out of Metal Gear. Like leaving terrible, wooden voice acting out of Resident Evil. Everyone is more or less assuming this is a short-sighted effort to combat piracy. Somehow.

I’ve played hundreds and hundreds of hours of Starcraft with friends. I made a practice of owning several copies, so that we would have enough to go around when people showed up for LAN parties. I’ve had to purchase the game a ridiculous number of times, because often those copies ended up going home with people, occasionally on purpose. (In fact, right now I have 3 cases but only 2 disks. If you’re the one who still has my Starcraft disk please give it back. Thanks!) If you add in all the copies of Brood War I bought, and the people that ran out and bought their own copy of the game due to our LAN escapades, then my efforts alone would make up for more than a dozen pirates. And yet in all of those hundreds and hundreds of games, never once did any of us ever sign on to

Why would we? We were all in the same room. We wanted to play together. Why would we want to stumble through account creation, online matchmaking, and lag headaches, just so we could play a game with someone who was so close I could smell them and they kept stepping on my mouse cord? There are still people out there on dial-up. Heck, there are people out there with no reliable internet at all. The beauty of those people is that without high-speed internet, they can’t pirate the game, but they could play LAN games. You’re excluding likely customers trying to protect yourself from people that will, let’s face it, pirate the game anyway. This is like shooting Lassie because Old Yeller has rabies.

I understand everyone fears piracy, but Starcraft is one of the longest-lived and best-selling titles in the history of videogames. Why would you mess with the formula like that? Yes, perhaps you’ll get a few pirates to pony up for the game. Maybe. (Well, maybe maybe.) But you could also destroy the unique market forces that kept this sucker on the shelves for so long. Your efforts to make the golden goose 10% more productive could very well kill it.

You’ve been printing money for eleven years. It’s been good, hasn’t it? What are you thinking?

You can sign the petition if you like. Of course, you could also open a window, stick your arm outside, and hold up a middle finger in the general direction of Blizzard headquarters in Irvine, California. Both will have precisely the same effect.

Maybe I’m wrong, and our little group of gamers were an anomaly. But my prediction is that Starcraft 2 will be a fine success, but without LAN support it will NOT be the industry-shaking juggernaut that the original was.

Shamus Young is the guy behind this website, this book, this other webcomic, and this program.

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