PC Gamer has been talking to Dustin Browder, a lead designer of Star Craft 2, about how they could make SC2 free to play.
Dustin says, that they have no idea how to monetize it. Obviously, you couldn't just give it for free, because SC2's main point is multiplayer, and putting it out for free would mean that sales of it might stop, unless someone wants to know more about the storyline.
They don't want to sell units (thank goodness), so what can they do? Well, how about alternate unit sprites? This provides a small advantage, when an opponent can't immediately identify your unit because they can't tell what it is.
Can you imagine having the humans replaced by fantasy units? Eldar as Elves? Etc etc? Diablo or Zombie themed Zerg instead?
You can also add value to the units by giving them new sound files as well. This would be a purely cosmetic upgrade, and available only through real money.
Along with that, they can make alternate units. These would replace a unit, fit a similar function. These are unit replacers that they can turn on or off. The idea is that they are not better, but maybe better in a different situation while losing something somewhere else.
These could be earned through gameplay or sold for money.
Would these be enough to make it free to play? Would they sell units by groups or one at a time? Would it be $5 for a new unit, or would they aim for impulse buying at $1 or $2? A whole team for $20-$30?
Would alternate sprites be sold by the group and alternate units individually? Could they make a grab bag with a random 3 units? Would you be able to trade them? Would you be able to morph them into a 3rd alternate currency... or send it to your WoW account as a summonable pet, that you could then battle with others?
Could you crunch it into resources for your Diablo 3 character? Or.... have it become a boost to be able to earn points faster for new alternate units.
Well, hopefully they think this through.