Blizzard Entertainment said Friday that open beta testing for its hit real-time strategy game StarCraft II will begin on March 29 in mainland China.
The move marks the latest step for World of Warcraft house Blizzard in bringing its next major release to the burgeoning Chinese online gaming market.
During the open beta, Chinese StarCraft II players will have access to the game's multiplayer modes for free, in similar fashion to open beta periods for the game that previously took place in other territories.
Blizzard is teaming up with Chinese World of Warcraft operator NetEase to bring the StarCraft II to the region. Blizzard said the RTS will launch commercially in China at the end of the open beta period, although the company did not reveal a firm launch date.
When the game launches, Chinese players will be able to pay 20 yuan ($3) per 30-days worth of play time, a rate that gives access to both single-player and mulitplayer.
StarCraft II launched in most territories in late July last year, selling 1.5 million units worldwide in its first two days of availability. Blizzard said the game has sold over 4.5 million units to date.
Blizzard CEO Mike Morhaime said in a statement, "We've been continuing to balance and make improvements to the game since its global release last July, and we think Chinese players will agree that StarCraft II has been worth the wait."
NetEase CEO William Ding added, "The original StarCraft is considered to be one of the classic real-time strategy games, which are highly popular among Chinese players, and we believe that StarCraft II will bring even more exciting competitive action to the Chinese gaming community."