If you’ve been listening to the Pod Shot!!!, you may remember some recent ramblings re Blizzard’s upcoming revamp of its Battle.net service. Recent coverage from BlizzCon (via Joystiq and Giantbomb) illuminates the particulars of the service, answering some of our questions and raising some others.
Among one of the more pressing topics is the issue of microtransactions. One of Battle.net’s most enduring features has always been the propagation of user-created maps. Well, on B.net 2.0 you’ll still be able to share maps, but the best ones may cost money. It looks like Blizzard looked at the wild success enjoyed by the free “Defense of the Ancients” scenario and decided they wanted a cut of the action. No word yet on how maps will be deemed marketplace-worthy. Hopefully capitalism’s invisible hand won’t squash nerd creativity.
Other options being explored include cross-server/cross-game chat (so you can talk to your buddy in Azeroth while you fight Kerrigan and her brood), Web 2.0 name identification (are we witnessing the end of gamertags?), improved matchmaking, and unlockable (or purchasable) Avatars and Decals. Details are slim on how Battle.net will function as an out-of-game client, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see them emulate some of Steam’s better features.
Will the new Battle.net really rival Steam? I’m not sure. It sounds like it will be tied solely to Blizzard titles, not upcoming Activision releases (though that may end up being their trump card). I’ll just be happy to sign on and be able to find a competitive match that won’t result in my constant humiliation.