Saturday, June 06, 2009

CONFIRMED: 2.0 to Be Free

You wonder why Blizzard didn't release this from the first announcements of Starcraft II and Diablo 3, but late's better than never.

According to Activision-Blizzard's annual conference call, and now a post on the official forums, 2.0 will be free to those purchasing Starcraft 2. This comes as good news to people frettting they'll have to fork over $50 for the base game and complement it with an XBOX Live subscription.

However, if you look closely at the wording, you'll notice Blue poster Karune only specifically mentions SC2. Yes, it's the SC2 forum on Yes, he's primarily speaking to the SC2-interested audiences. No, I didn't get the opportuniy to sit in on the Activision-Blizzard conference call to hear Mike Morhaime specifically define what the service covers. But there's some important factors to consider... after the break.

World of Warcraft, which will be included in the new 2.0 integration, already has a $15/mo subscription fee attached, so including Bnet2.0 should be a no-brainer. SC2 was recently announced as a trilogy, so assuming a $50+ price tag on each game, they're netting $150+ total from each dedicated customer over the lifespan of SC2. Diablo, the only intellectual property still in the air, is only planned (at this stage) to be a single-game iteration, so this game might be up for a 2.0 access fee, or worse, a subscription model. However, the Diablo community has come to expect free online play from the previous 2 games... but meeting profit estimates tend to trump histortical trends. This is just the cynic in me talking, though.

If you dig enough, you'll even find tidbits that older games will not be supported (although this isn't cited anywhere specifically). This means they'll be stuck on the old iteration until they're taken offline. It makes sense since the new is being built around a whole new infrastructure (clan management, event planning, game achievements, etc.), but it's sad to see if you're playing a retro game there's a chance your friends won't see you on.

Overall, it's good to see Blizzard's moving towards a "free" model for 2.0. But this all might be dependent on how much revenue they can generate from each IP individually over the long-term to support the service. Keep your ears tuned, especially in August during Blizzcon, to see how this situation evolves. Better yet, come to my blog, since I'll actually be attending (liveblog attempt incoming?!).

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