I have an admittance to make, which won’t be much of a reveal for people who already know me.

I kind of hate X-Box Live...

I’m not really against it on principle, as it does still serve a purpose of uniting console gamers through online play. However, as it exists, I’m constantly reminded how financially-focused Microsoft is (which is true with everyone to be fair, they’re just less tactful about it), which tends to ruin the experience for me. It also commercially fosters the more ignorant player and gives them the faculty to breed and propagate, but I won’t dig into that right now. Instead, I’ll move on to the topic at hand, Battle.net, which remains the only online-play service that I’ve actually found a genuine liking for. Steam is definitely top-notch in many respects, but Valve’s exercising of its power sometimes directly turns me around and politely pats me on my ass, leading me away from it. As I just stated with XBL, it pretty much just obnoxiously pisses on all of its potential, which has always caused me to compensate by placing blind hope in PSN somehow stepping up (which is just happening too *** slow for me).


Battle.Net 1.0Battle.net’s function ties into these services without being a direct competitor with them. Mostly this is because its implementation is spread across a few but significantly powerful games. StarCraft, Diablo, and WarCraft have all merged with the service to provide and effective and simplistic means to connect to fellow players. BNet also has a slight obessionist edge to it which the others lack. If someone is really into StarCraft for example, BNet will be one of the most comfortable couches they ever lounge on.


I suppose that sometime next year, we’ll get StarCraft II (the longer it takes, the better in my opinion), which is now confirmed to be supporting ‘Battle.Net 2.0’, a revamped and updated service to help carry along the likes of StarCraft II and Diablo III. My first impressions upon hearing the details for 2.0 were those of excitement, as it seems Blizzard is tactfully beginning to infringe on the markets that both XBL and Steam are so wrapped up in dominating right now. Some of the changes however, do have me wondering about the ripple effect they’re bound to have.


Going Monetary


The most obvious questions I have revolve around what Blizzard will have to compromise in order to generate its own finances. I’m not naïve enough to assume that all will be taken care of through micro-transactions (though that coupled with advertising could work I guess). The fact that it’s a free service is something gamers tend to take for granted (yet ironically something like XBL features so many complaints about it needing to be a free service without any thought to what that entails); so worrying about how Blizzard will keep the service up to snuff is a valid concern. It should also be noted that some of the cooler features involve players being able to sell and market custom maps for each other. It’s already been established that Blizzard can handle MMO-like expenses, so if something such as StarCraft II’s customization options manage to take off, this could be exactly what we’re looking at it terms of user-generated content. It's not necessarily esoteric enough to enter mod-territory, but it definitely possesses enough gravity to manage like a rudimentary economic system.


Interacting With People? Ew...


This one is a tad odd to me because I somehow possess an irrational fear of how the chat options have been streamlined for accessibility. The hindrance between communicating with fellow gamers on 1.0 was mainly caused by having to type key-commands in order to reach each other; even bringing up one’s own buddy list was managed this way. It's been stated that 2.0 will feature some sort of instant messaging simulation to help players keep up with one another. I may need to just see the execution of it to invest trust in it; I’m most likely afraid that the barrier built into 1.0 was contingent on my enjoyment of the overall service, we'll have to wait and see if that's true.


The Ego Game


Battle.Net 2.0This correlates two the previous two and can be seen in all sorts of lights when examined. On one hand, it’s this feature that will make 2.0 last, as giving the player an ‘ego-presence’ online will raise the chances of them staying with the service. 2.0 is supposedly filled with everything from custom decals for units to entire leagues being supported. It’s also something BNet can capitalize on since the aforementioned services don’t do much to actively support such a feature. Steam is pretty much just a content-delivery service and XBL & PSN are both full of blatant micro-transactions built on the premise that the user is ‘cosmetically weak’, something we all possess to some degree so it just comes off as them taking advantage of us in the end. BNet using something such as decals and leagues however, will actually have function in-game, giving players effective ‘war-paint’ and more reason to support the service.


In the end, Battle.Net is full of potential that spoke mainly to P.C. players when it was initially unveiled. Now there’s room to advance its progress since more people are now in possession of P.Cs with decent online connections (not to mention Blizzard has a penchant for developing content to run on everything). We're also moving into an age where pure-bred console gamers are becoming more and more of an endangered species (thank God for that by the way). StarCraft was a kind of a game that could suck a year away from your life if you weren’t paying attention (and most of us are still playing it a decade later), so 2010 is going to be an extremely interesting year if Blizzard manages to pull off BNet 2.0 to even a third of its potential.