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?