As part of Activision Blizzard's pre-2009 Electronic Entertainment Expo tele-press conference, Blizzard Entertainment executive Michael Morhaime confirmed what many had suspected: Starcraft II: Wings of Liberty is expected to launch for the PC alongside the newly redesigned Battle.net online networking service before the end of the year. However, when Starcraft II does see release, it will do so without a hallmark of the real-time strategy genre: a local area network multiplayer option.
Blizzard today confirmed for GameSpot that LAN functionality will be absent from Starcraft II's multiplayer component, as both a piracy prevention mechanism and a quality-assurance initiative.
"We don't currently plan to support LAN play with Starcraft II, as we are building Battle.net to be the ideal destination for multiplayer gaming with Starcraft II and future Blizzard Entertainment games," a Blizzard representative said in a statement. "While this was a difficult decision for us, we felt that moving away from LAN play and directing players to our upgraded Battle.net service was the best option to ensure a quality multiplayer experience with Starcraft II and safeguard against piracy."
"Several Battle.net features like advanced communication options, achievements, stat-tracking, and more, require players to be connected to the service, so we're encouraging everyone to use Battle.net as much as possible to get the most out of Starcraft II," the statement continued. "We're looking forward to sharing more details about Battle.net and online functionality for Starcraft II in the near future."
Speaking with GameSpot during BlizzCon 2008, Blizzard Entertainment cofounder Frank Pearce noted that piracy was a concern for the developer and that Battle.net would play a role in helping to counteract theft of the game.
"We're definitely talking about ways with Battle.net that we can provide the best online experience for our customers so that there's not an incentive to pirate the product but instead an incentive to be part of that community of gamers playing that game and they'd want to be part of that social experience on top of the single-player experience," he said.
Blizzard expects to begin closed beta for Starcraft II sometime this summer and is currently taking sign-ups for the testing phase through the official Battle.net Web site. For more information, check out GameSpot's previous coverage of Starcraft II.