Blizzard’s Starcraft must surely be one of the most enduring computer games of all time. It came out when I was in high school, but is still actively played by a large number of people, especially in South Korea. There are even professional matches and tournaments.
Now, Blizzard is in the middle of a long beta release of Starcraft II. I think the key purpose is to balance the three races, so that good players will be approximately equally likely to use all three. The balancing is subtle and detailed: involving everything from the cost and time required for weapons upgrades to the potentially useful hexagonal grid projected by Protoss pylons, which could aid accurate placement of buildings.
Throughout the beta, there have been two internet personalities releasing high-resolution narrated replays of high level matches: HDstarcraft and HuskyStarcraft. They had one sponsored tournament, but generally don’t seem to advertise for anybody. That, combined with the relative professionalism of their operation and the sheer amount of time they are putting into it makes me wonder if they might be part of a viral marketing campaign run by Blizzard, designed to build anticipation for the forthcoming game.
This is pure speculation on my part but if it is true, it is a clever move on Blizzard’s part. The number of people watching each screencast has been rising steadily, and is now consistently over 100,000. The people watching may end up as some of the most active members of the eventual Starcraft II community, after commercial release. Even if Blizzard has nothing to do with these replays, I think undertaking such an extensive beta release (with more than 13 patches already) shows a good amount of respect for their customers, for whom the issue of balance will eventually be very important.
[Update: 14 December 2010] I no longer think it is at all likely that HD and Husky are part of a viral marketing campaign. Still, it would have been a pretty good idea on the part of Blizzard. I have definitely enjoyed their videos, and they contributed to my desire to buy and play Starcraft II.