StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty may have just come out but it's never too soon to think about what's next. There isn't a lot of information on StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm, but we do know some things.
The middle chapter of the StarCraft II saga is called Starcraft II: Heart of the Swarm. It was announced at BlizzCon 2008 when Blizzard revealed that StarCraft II would be split into three parts.
Blizzard intends for Heart of the Swarm to be an expansion for Wings of Liberty. Blizzard's Rob Pardo explained in a Q&A last year, "Right now, the plans are to do something along the lines of a full single player campaign and some additional features to the multiplayer side... we're looking at much more of an expansion-like feature set." Blizzard confirmed that to Kotaku today, explaining that Heart of the Swarm can be thought of as expansions, stocked with a campaign that is as substantial as Wings of Liberty's but with new content for multiplayer and a different metagame.
One school of thought is that, despite the three games having different campaigns, the multiplayer sections of all three StarCraft II releases would be compatible with each other. That's not the case. A Blizzard representative told us to expect separate multiplayer ladders for Heart of the Swarm, similar to how StarCraft Brood War had a separate multiplayer ladder from the original StarCraft.
If Blizzard really does treat it like an expansion, then it might require owning Wings of Liberty. But without them saying for sure, it could be a standalone release like Wings of Liberty.
This installment in the StarCraft II trilogy will pick up at the end of Wings of Liberty and focus on the Zerg and their quest to develop an empire. The campaign will center on the infested Kerrigan's quest for power through mutations. The more power she has, the more Zerg she can control. The single-player is planned to play a bit differently than Wings of Liberty but we're not quite sure how yet. Lead designer Dustin Browder proposed that the player might use the Zerg armies to protect Kerrigan on the battlefield while she gains more power. This would imply it will have more of a RPG twist, similar to Warcraft III.
No one can be sure yet but it is looking like it could be out in early 2012, based on an estimation of 18 months from the release of Wings of Liberty from lead producer Chris Sigaty. Blizzard won't nail this down, of course. They're not big on promising release dates this far out.
There is no definite answer for this but it has been suggested by Blizzard's Rob Pardo that it will be priced as an expansion pack. If we base this off of their World of Warcraft expansion packs then we're looking at around $30 to $40.
Be on the lookout for any news coming out of this year's BlizzCon, going on October 22-23. Blizzard is likely saving a substantial amount of information about the next episode in their Starcraft II series for their own convention in the fall.
Additional reporting by Stephen Totilo