Seems like Blizzard is making sure it’s ready for the age of game communities and digital downloads (ala Steam). Blizzard just announced the new Battle.net, an update to its free online matchmaking service.
The new Battle.net features a centralized account for all your games starting with World of Warcraft. If you’re an existing WoW player, you can merge your current account with the new Battle.net version. Future games (notably Starcraft II and Diablo III) should be using this same single account. Unfortunately, you can’t merge the accounts of Warcraft III, Starcraft, or Diablo II. As stated in the FAQ, you’ll still ahve to use the old accounts/logins for those games (which they call “Classic Battle.net”).
The interesting thing to note is that you can your old games to this account for game management purposes, meaning you can manage the keys of your old games AND download them to your computer. It’s not yet as convenient as Steam’s implementation, but it is a start. At least I won’t have to worry about losing my Starcraft CDs or my Warcraft III keys. Of course, that also means that you’re gonna have to trust them to take care of the security of your account.
This ability to download games digitally would appear to be a precurser to digital distribution, as they are slowly enabling technology to make purchases and downloads from the Battle.net account. Who knows if they’ll start offering purchases and downloads for other publishers in the future? I get the feeling Activision would be the 1st non-Blizzard candidate, if ever they do offer non-Blizzard items.
Still, given Steam’s success, I’m not surprised that more and more companies will be taking this kind of route.