These days it feels like everyone streams. The explosion of all online video content over the last decade is one thing, but videogame streaming is a more recent and unusual phenomenon - and one overwhelmingly tied to the Justin.tv spin-off Twitch. In June this year Twitch announced it had around 35 million viewers a month and this is important for one big reason; it makes eSports a viable career for a lot more individuals than ever before.
For hundreds of thousands of people StarCraft 2 is an ultra hardcore competitive multiplayer game built for eSports and little else. For them playing and hopefully winning ranked matches is all that matters.
Blizzard's head writer and lore guru - or senior vice president of story and franchise development to his friends - Chris Metzen has just announced his retirement. To mark the moment, here's a profile of the man we originally published on 20th October 2011.
Blizzard goes big at GamesCom, and this year was no exception. Gargantuan queues wrapped around its Diablo 3 booth on the show floor, and its 20th anniversary press conference was packed to the rafters. With Diablo 3, StarCraft 2 expansion Heart of the Swarm, an unnamed World of Warcraft expansion and Project Titan all in the works, these are exciting times for the company.
Were you ever a normal gamer?
StarCraft II launched last year with an editor designed to allow fans to create their own mods. No surprise there. But at BlizzCon, Blizzard announced plans to release StarCraft II mods of its own. Why? Well, just for fun.
Ever try watching ants? It's not that fun. All they do is crawl around, trying to hunt for food or whatever, just living their ant lives until they get stomped, eaten, or otherwise slain in some unceremonious fashion. Sounds boring, right?
Last night, outside GAME's flagship store on Oxford Street, London, hundreds of PC gamers queued to buy Blizzard's real-time strategy sequel StarCraft II. It wasn't exactly chaos - more like orderly enthusiasm - but it was fun nonetheless.
Close your eyes in a room full of StarCraft II players and you could be forgiven for thinking you were in the presence of a giant space cockroach, or a vast interstellar weevil, or something else with nasty chattering mandibles.
So there, right at the top of this invisible pyramid I'm gesturing at, are the guys who play StarCraft competitively. Then there are the guys who are really, amazingly, incredibly good at it. Then there are those who are very, very good at it. Then the ones who are good at it. Then there are the ones who are competent at it.
Can you have a sleeper hit at a convention where there are only three games? Can you be taken unawares by a monster sequel to an RTS classic, six years in development, of which expectations are already sky-high and for which the delayed wait until next year seems unbearable? Is it possible to underestimate the importance of Blizzard's first non-World of Warcraft release since 2003? Going by last weekend's BlizzCon - yes, absolutely. We knew StarCraft II was big. We didn't know - we had no idea, actually - it was this big.
Sitting in an office in the memorabilia-filled halls of Blizzard's nerve-centre in southern California, Rob Pardo is unassuming, chirpy and sincere - a manner which belies the fact that this is unquestionably one of the most influential men in the games business.
It's probably not deliberate, but Blizzard seems determined to drive home just how inadequate I am as a gamer. Within minutes of arriving at the company's imposing Southern California base - the giant statue of an orc riding a wolf in the courtyard is under renovation by a team of builders, it transpires - I'm seated in a private cinema to watch some StarCraft II matches in progress.
Peculiar bedfellows, perhaps? There was always going to be a clash somewhere in this year's Coming Attractions as we sorted our way through 12 categories, but you could argue there's more that unites fighting and strategy than divides them. Both are about trying to take maximum of advantage of your opposition's weaknesses, both reward patience, concentration and consideration, and as of Red Alert 3 both have a thing for impractical women's clothing.
Published as part of our sister-site GamesIndustry.biz' widely-read weekly newsletter, the GamesIndustry.biz Editorial is a weekly dissection of one of the issues weighing on the minds of the people at the top of the games business. It appears on Eurogamer after it goes out to GI.biz newsletter subscribers.
Mike Morhaime is the chief executive of Blizzard Entertainment, co-founded with his college buddies Allen Adham and Frank Pearce under the name Silicon & Synapse in 1991. Over the next 17 years it built a formidable name for itself in real-time strategy (Warcraft and StarCraft), action RPG (Diablo), and more recently massively multiplayer gaming, with World of Warcraft, the proverbial golden egg that has brought in 10 million subscribers. Blizzard is known for its perfectionism, its lengthy, iterative development process, its early embrace of online multiplayer gaming, and its staunch support of the PC and even Mac as gaming platforms.
With Battle.net, Diablo and WOW behind them, it's probably fair to suggest that PC gamers have spent more millions of hours on Blizzard's games than any other company's. Which is mental. With that in mind, we recently spent an hour chatting to three team leads on the original, now all working inside Blizzard on StarCraft II.
Art is important to Blizzard. The offices of the World of Warcraft developer, currently working on RTS sequel StarCraft II, are plastered with it. Vivid, colourful and extravagant concept art is hung everywhere. The offices even have a curator, part of whose job description is to ensure that huge floor-to-ceiling pieces are displayed around the campus. One such piece is in the canteen - a jolly painting of drinking dwarves by Samwise Didier.
StarCraft II is fast. Really, really fast. But lead designer Dustin Browder talks faster. The bald-headed, sharp-eyed veteran of Command & Conquer titles, hired in by Blizzard to take command of this sequel to its decade-old real-time strategy warhorse, jumps into questions halfway through and peppers you with rattling bursts of ideas and arguments. It's like he's involved in a constant game of StarCraft II in his head, where precision, pre-emption, and speed of execution are absolutely everything.