Blizzard’s Partnership with Facebook

Victor Stillwater of Games and Geekery dropped an interesting link in a comment to me this morning. Coming from USA Today back in May, apparently word got out that Blizzard had plans to partner with Facebook for its Battle.net service. They make it very clear in the article that RealID was a step towards integrating with Facebook, but, at the time, they were still very adamant in how “optional” these features were supposed to be.

This may be old news to some of you but I totally missed it. Now, I can’t help but to see these changes as the first steps towards literally expanding WoW into the world’s largest social network. It’s actually kind of funny. We all said that Blizzard was after Facebook’s money and it turns out that’s exactly what they’re doing. Sharing is caring, right?

There are some particularly interesting quotes from the interview featured in the article.

Here at Blizzard we have seen the social networks as an inspiration to us to really think about what the next stage of the online gaming space will look like.

The problem is, a AAA MMO like World of Warcraft isn’t supposed to occupy the same space as some casual Facebook game. And I suppose that’s supposed to be the boundary pushing, innovative part of it. But, you know what? I think they’re totally missing the mark for what their fanbase wants out of their games. MMORPGs are predicated on stepping outside of oneself and into a character. The whole point is that, even in an out of game space like a forum, I am not “Chris” to that community. I am Syeric. I might choose to let down that veil with some friends, but that should always be my choice.

The feature we are shipping with is this ‘Add A Friend’ feature. …I can simply log into Facebook within a special interface we have created in Battle.net and import, if you will, all my friends who are on Facebook and are also on Battle.net into my social network here on Battle.net.

On one hand, the curious part of me wants to import my friends list just to see who else plays. On the other, I wouldn’t want every single person on my friends list to have the ability to find me in-game whenever they wanted, either.

Do you expect any push back from diehard Blizzard fans from the Facebook features?
We don’t anticipate any. We are going to be very clear and upfront with the user. Once they log in and create a Battle.net account for the first time, if they choose to participate in Real ID, it is of course, an optional set of features that you don’t have to participate in.

Really, none? In all fairness, it would probably go over a lot smoother if RealID was actually optional in the true essence of the word. A feature that removes functionality from a user, after five years of having it,  unless they opt-in isn’t what most of us would consider optional. All of this hullabaloo is made all the more ironic because, as partners with Facebook, you’d think they’d have noticed the privacy firestorm they were just under.

In the end, I think Blizzard is pushing WoW to be more than what MMORPGs are traditionally seen as. In the process, they’re ignoring the outrage of thousands of their users. Some of these features might be cool, as long as the user has complete control over them — which, if the forums are any example, they just may not.

I feel it has to be said, though, that if this expansion of WoW is any kind of success, it will all but cement WoW’s place in the history books for expanding the definition of MMO. With that being said, however, change makes people uncomfortable. I, for one, don’t like the idea of WoW becoming half a social network.

And, business and profit being what they are, I can only imagine that these changes are the first steps in a much more thorough integration.

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