As we reported a few days ago, Blizzard just signed a deal with Massive INC, to provide advertisements on the various Blizzard websites and through Battle.net. Blizzard confirmed that the ads will not display in-game, but since Blizzard hasn’t revealed many of the new features we’ll see in Battle.net 2.0, speculation is running rampant. Ads online and in games is not a new innovation; some of Massive’s other clients include Sega and EA, but it’s new to Blizzard, and some of the early reactions to this news are less than enthusiastic.
The Escapist is more cautious than optimistic:
While advertising within a retail gaming product hasn’t always produced the desired results, the hope is that developers turn to it as opposed to charging consumers for the expenses they’re hoping to cover. An example of this would be MMOG titles like Maple Story and Anarchy Online, which utilize in-game advertisements as a way to make the games available for free. The advertising that Massive Inc is offering Blizzard won’t be seen in-game, but they may still be a solution for a particularly sticky situation. At their annual fan convention, Blizzcon, which was held earlier this year, Diablo III producer Jay Wilson was asked whether or not Battle.net would remain free in the face of the massive, subscription-based success of their own MMOG title, World of Warcraft. Wilson admitted that Blizzard is looking to “monetize Battle.net so that we get to keep making these games and updating features.”
If keeping Battle.net free for gamers around the world means that we have to bear witness to an endless supply of advertisements for pain relievers and sandwiches, I believe we can all live with that. But should the day come when we’re all paying for the opportunity to play Diablo III and get free credit reports, consider your right to pitchforks invoked.
More pessimistic is Ars Technica:
Activision Blizzard has a very easy-to-understand business plan: monetize everything it can, as quickly as it can, across as many platforms as it can. The result is a strong slash-and-burn mentality when it comes to the games industry, and a new deal with Massive Inc. to sell ads in its games shouldn’t come as a surprise; in-game advertising isn’t a new idea. What’s frightening is the announcement that those ads are coming to Battle.Net. Don’t worry, it sounds like there are even more plans to turn Battle.net into a cash cow.
…These new ideas and money-making schemes aren’t being shoehorned into the existing Battle.Net, as Activision Blizzard is hard at work creating a revamped version of the service for StarCraft 2 and Diablo III. That means that the team can start from the ground up and decide what services the company would like continue to give away for free, and which it would like to make for-pay.
The amount of eyes that will be on Battle.Net when these two upcoming games are released will be staggering. It’s somewhat depressing that instead of a blessing, Activision Blizzard sees that as an opportunity to maximize the earning potential of the service. Blizzard has long been known as one of the good guys in gaming, but it’s unclear how long Activision CEO Bobby Kotick will allow them to keep that reputation.
What do you guys think? Are you resigned to ads appearing on everything, eventually? Is it a fair trade off so long as Battle.net doesn’t gain a monthly fee? Would you subscribe if it meant better features and no ads? *cough* Or do you hate this and feel that your $60 should buy you support and ad-free gaming forever?