What constitutes a 'dead-game'? &, How is StarCraft II's 'health' doing today?
It's not unlikely that you are here because you've just asked if StarCraft (or maybe another game) is dead.
Before answering the question or concern in your mind, we must first determine what that question means. Games aren't living organisms and as such they don't share or experience life in the same way that we do, it then follows that, technically, a game cannot be "dead" as from a human perspective it was never "alive" to begin with.
AHA! let me interrupt you for a second, it's important to identify that whatever it is -you- meant by dead isn't necessarily what another individual would use as their metrics to determine the health or perishing date of a game, because games can't die your idea of a "dead game" falls to the realm of subjectivity (influenced by individual or personal feelings and opinions). I think that much of the concern/discussion around a game's 'health' comes from active participants or other people wanting to invest time into -or- current users wanting justification to move away.
Lets address some common metrics / concerns that people tend to bring up when pronouncing a game "dead" or inquiring on it's health, relating specifically to StarCraft 2 at the time of this article:
Is there a continued developer support?
StarCraft 2 has been supported by Blizzard since in 2010. Within the StarCraft team there are smaller teams tasked with maintaining and enhancing the player and viewer experience on a consistent basis.
Even though there are no additional expansions are scheduled to come out, in recent history the game has seen consistent and significant improvements / additions in various areas of the user interface, production of skins and micro-transactions (cosmetics only), in-game improvements, multiplayer balance, arcade support and development, esports, etc. Very popular game-modes like CO-OP commanders (+mutators) also continue to see well-received releases.
How are the online queue times?
StarCraft 2 multiplayer (1vs1) relative to most other large/AAA games has some of the shortest queue times online at all skill levels, responsible for this is a solid match making system paired with an active user-base and the game being predominantly 1vs1, which means you are often just waiting for 1 other person. There are people of all skill brackets playing throughout the course of the day on any day, on all available servers.
How active / large is the player base?
Any game's player base is ever-shifting for better or worse, the player base in StarCraft has seen significant growth in recent history, especially since the introduction of "Free to Play", while there seems to be an upwards trend, -when- you sample for difference matters. It's easy for example to perceive the game feeling "smaller" when compared to it's early years, there are now way more games and esports, Twitch is gigantic and SC2 no longer sits on the very top of the hill.
The site RankedFTW is able to provide us with a bit more insight into the ladder population. Firstly if we look at the number of players who participate on the ladder each season we can see a marked rise as Legacy of the Void went on, even before the free to play change but that change did increase the rate of growth.
We also see a bigger increase when free to play ladder was instituted in games played per day:
(If we look at the number of players playing each ladder season we see a consistent rise throughout the past 10 seasons:
Starcraft 2 may not be the big dog in terms of population but we also know from a variety of people who have talked to Blizzard that about 2 million people sign into the Starcraft 2 client each month. Some play ladder, other campaign, co-op and the Arcade are also big draws.
What about viewership?
Much like with player base, viewership for StarCraft esports and other events today is not only stable but upwards-trending. Side-by-side comparisons of events this year vs "the equivalent event" last year have seen consistent growth, however if you are coming back from a long 6+ year break, chances are you will find less viewers and it should be no news that other (predominantly team games and battle royale games) occupy the very top spots on this regard. Still, if you're looking to watch, share and/or learn there is much StarCraft to be found live on Twitch at any time of the day, every day.
It's easy to catch former titans on their personal streams, current top dogs playing in online cups hosted by the likes of Wardi and BaseTradeTV or lower league players fighting it out on channels like SCVRush.
Fuzic and ESCWatch are websites that track viewership. Thanks to this kind of tool we can easily compare, for example, the three same events from 2017 and 2018, Montreal, Austin and Valencia:
Average Event Viewership
These three events featured the same format, similar players and the same set of WCS rules. While this is only a three event comparison if we compare slightly different events like WCS Jönköping in 2017 and Leipzig in 2018 we see a similar trend.
As stated previously, SC2 is currently upwards-trending and growth on most areas in recent history is apparent. Okay Bye!
P.S; Big thanks for the assist with statistics to TopherDoll!