Two news bits about DiabloWikiBobby Kotick and financial matters. Beware clicking these links, since both boast large photos of his demonically-grinning little leprechaun face right at the top of the article.

    First off, Tech Digest reports that a Bobby Kotick-headed investment group is negotiating to buy a controlling interest in MySpace. No, really.

    The New York Post (itself owned by News Corp.) is reporting that Kotick’s group have reached “final talks”, but that at this stage there is no involvement with Activision Blizzard, the publishing house responsible for the massive gaming titles World of Warcraft and Call of Duty.

    …Though no Activision Blizzard involvement is yet announced in the deal, the massive user figures for World of Warcraft and Call of Duty could be leveraged to boost MySpace’s user numbers. The forth-coming Modern Warfare 3 from Activision itself introduces a social network of sorts called Call of Duty: Elite. Perhaps MySpace integration here could prove lucrative for both parties?

    Imagine if this happens? And we all think Blizzard’s constant efforts to force social media integration down our throats is annoying now!

    Speaking of Call of Duty’s huge online presence, Activision’s efforts to monetize its (currently) free online service are proceeding furiously. Lum the Mad rounds up quotes from multiple articles in the financial press about the new initiative. From his post, here’s what The Guardian said:

    The driving force behind Elite is clear ? the desire to gain revenue from the vast numbers of gamers who regularly play Call of Duty titles online for free. According to Activision, 20 million people play Call of Duty online every month ? more than seven million every day.

    This number represents a vast source of untapped income ? and in an era of declining retail sales for games, identifying new streams of digital revenue is becoming vitally important. The problem is, attempting to install a subscription charge on online multiplayer activity would meet with massive resistance from gamers, who have always enjoyed free access to online functionality with shooter games.

    From the moment Blizzard announced Diablo III and their new plans for B.net, I fully-expected (and occasionally predicted) that D3 would require a paid subscription for full online gaming access. I guessed that they’d allow some limited online play for free, but that if you wanted closed realms, ladders, more characters on your account, Auction House access, guild support, etc, it would cost you $5.99 a month, or whatever they thought we’d be willing to pay.

    Apparently that’s not going to happen, though that’s far from official, as they’ve released almost no details about how we’ll play D3 over B.net, aside from confirming that LAN play will not be included. (Making B.net the only unhacked way to play MP D3.) If B.net for D3 is indeed free, that will have to rank as one of the major successes of Blizzard’s management—that they managed to fight off Activision’s financial sharks, to preserve free online play for SC2 and D3 via B.net. At least for gamers from the US and most of Europe.

    You’d have to be pretty naive optimistic to count on that state of affairs persisting indefinitely, though.

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