Following Activision's full-year earnings report last week, Blizzard Entertainment president Mike Morhaime proclaimed as part of a conference call with analysts and investors that the Starcraft II closed multiplayer beta test would start up this month. True to Morhaime's word, the Irvine, California-based studio announced today that the closed beta window has opened and it has begun sending out invitations to "thousands of gamers around the world."
In what Blizzard called "the first phase of the beta test," invitees will be afforded the chance to try out Starcraft II's much anticipated, though LAN-less, multiplayer component. Though the first installment in the trifurcated Starcraft II series, Wings of Liberty, will focus on the human Terran campaign in single-player mode, the multiplayer component will also let gamers wage interstellar real-time strategy warfare as the hivelike Zerg and technologically advanced Protoss factions.
The testing phase also gives eligible gamers the chance to check out Blizzard's overhaul to the Battle.net online gaming service. As detailed by vice president of game design Rob Pardo during last year's BlizzCon, the new Battle.net will offer gamers a variety of features, including persistent player profiles across all of Blizzard's games. The overhauled gaming platform will also feature improved matchmaking services and enhanced competitive gaming functionality.
Starcraft II: Wings of Liberty is currently slated to arrive for the PC during the first half of 2010. Many analysts regard the game's commercial success as a forgone conclusion, with sales estimates creeping up beyond 6 million units by the end of the year. For more on the game, check out GameSpot's previous coverage.