Blizzard’s new vision for a social network

This has been a strong week for MMO news. As well as the Champions Online pricing model, the CoH response, and lots of video of Aion in action, Blizzard slipped in their second quarter conference call.

And one of the highlights was their plans for battle.net. Battle.net began life as Blizzard’s online gaming service, and was released at the same time as the original Diablo. It never involved member fees and was also easy to access from Blizzard’s games. Blizzard has even claimed in the past that it was the largest online gaming network, bar none.

“When you look at Battle.net and you look at the subscriber base we have with World of Warcraft, even Xbox Live is not even close to us… I think we absolutely are winning. And you can count on us bringing MMORGs as well as more games that would be playable over Battle.net.”

- Paul Sams (2006)

So with this background, it’s maybe surprising that Blizzard has taken so long to have another look at battle.net. They’re talking about adding social networking features, cross-game communication, unified account management, and more. It’s important enough that Starcraft II is being delayed so that battle.net can be ready in time. And no one delays a surefire hit unless they think they’ll make more money in the long run by waiting.

I’ll definitely be expecting to hear more about this at Blizzcon, in fact it may end up being the biggest change coming down the line influencing how all games are played online in future. And if you think that sounds bold, bear in mind that although Blizzard have a well-earned reputation for collecting ideas from other games and polishing them up, in the online gaming field they have always been one step ahead of the pack. (And I also wonder how much it’ll cost us …)

On another note, although cross-game communication sounds neat, I wish they’d steal an idea from EQ2 and give us cross-server communication first!!

What would you want to see on an  overhauled battle.net?

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11 thoughts on “Blizzard’s new vision for a social network

  1. Stupid question: why would anyone want to communicate with non-players while playing? I mean if you are immersed into the game, you don’t want to be distracted by Aunt Marlene’s whispers.

    If you are bored enough to chat with Aunt Marlene, you should not be playing.

    • Three things:

      1) Games are, usually, full-screen applications. Unless you’re dual-heading, all your MSN/ICQ/IRC/AIM/BBQ is effectively turned off.

      2) Your gamer-buddies are not in-game all the time. They might be sitting at their PC doing something else, maybe even playing something else, yet they are still your buddies. You DO talk in guild-chat when you’re not adventuring with your guildies that moment, right? What difference does it make when they are not even logged into the game at that moment? Chat is chat.

      3) The level of “immersion” into a game where you totally lose yourself and entirely block out the outer world, is not necessarily a desirable one, in my opinion. Doesn’t mean you want to chat with your Grandma while playing, but, to be honest, no one suggested that.

      Think Xfire. Not that I’d be using that myself, doesn’t float my boat. But there is, apparently, quite a market for it.

      • This is why I like WoW, Guild Wars and Aion: They run perfectly in windowed mode. LOTRO does that, too, but it deactivates my Vista Aero Theme for some reason. :(

      • Matter of taste, of course, but actually PLAYING in windowed mode? Sure, when I am waiting around and multi-tasking, window-mode is fine, but “out on adventure” I want fullscreen prettiness! ;)

  2. It’s almost certain that the biggest “feature” of the service is going to be advertising on every out-of-game surface they can find. Also, I’m sure that people are going to love having the “we know we don’t enforce 100% raid attendence, but we happen to know you were playing SCII last night” conversation with their guilds.

  3. I wonder if I am the only one who is tired of social networking and companies creating their own platforms/launchers for their games only.

    The only good think I can see coming out of this networking mania is that we might get options to play with everyone we want, whenever we want – so more instanced world models where we can change at will versus the old separated and fixed server worlds. This could also avoid the dreaded servermerges.

  4. Social media/social networking makes every marketer’s heart go pitter patter. And given that there have been several non-Blizzard attempts (without their level of funding) to do this for WoW players it’s not surprising to hear. Thanks for sharing this!

    • That’s a good point. I don’t see the future looking too bright for the WoW social networking sites unless they can think of something really good.

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