A year ago at BlizzCon, Blizzard announced plans to release Blizzard DOTA as a free mod map for owners of StarCraft II. Yes, it's supposed to be kind of playable tribute to the action-RTS genre that started with Defense of the Ancients, a mod made for Blizzard's Warcraft III. Since then the action-RTS genre, sometimes referred to as MOBA (multiplayer online battle action) games, has exploded with titles like League of Legends, Demigod, Heroes of Newerth, and the upcoming Valve project DOTA 2.
But, as usual with a lot of Blizzard's projects, it's taking a lot more time to complete this mod than planned. This weekend's BlizzCon event showed that Blizzard DOTA will be much more ambitious in scope than a mere mod project.
Euroogamer confirms that people who download the free StarCraft II Starter Edition will also be able to download and play at least part of the content for Blizzard DOTA for free. But if you own the full version of the sci-fi RTS game plus the upcoming Heart of the Swarm expansion pack, more content will be made available for Blizzard DOTA players. People who don't own those games may have to come up with some money in order to access that extra content.
Blizzard's Chris Sigaty says, "Certainly Wings of Liberty and Heart of the Swarm will get some advantages to you in DOTA, as far as if and when we monetise it; they will give you some ins. We're still talking about how that will work."
So it sounds like Blizzard is going to move into the free-to-play (with microtransactions) business with Blizzard DOTA, much like how League of Legends and Heroes of Newerth work. You can check out more about the game, along with info about upcoming improvements for mod tools for StarCraft II, at the game's official web site.
We have to say that for once, Blizzard's reputation for taking its time to release games may be a detriment in Blizzard DOTA's case. There are already a number of well established action-RTS games out there and Valve's DOTA 2, currently in closed beta testing, should launch in the very near future. While we know that Blizzard DOTA is considered a side project for StarCraft II team members, perhaps they should take it more seriously and make it a full free-to-play game on its own, instead of letting it require StarCraft II, even the free version.