Is Battle.net Setting Up to Become an Open Game Platform?
In 2017, Battle.net made history, porting the first non-Activision game, Destiny 2, onto the platform. Now, it seems Call of Duty Black Ops 4 may be available on the platform as well, after a screenshot by CharlieIntel shows players linking to Call of Duty accounts via Xbox, Playstation, Steam, and Battle.net.
That’s important, considering that until last year, Battle.net was Blizzard only. The platform has exclusively hosted Black Ops titles like World of Warcraft, Heroes of the Storm, and Starcraft and Destiny II was largely seen as a one-time exception. Now, with the October-2018 Call of Duty Black Ops 4 potentially being launched, Blizard could be setting themselves up for a much more diverse library of games through the platform.
An Activision Streaming Platform?
While Blizzard is extremely prolific, it is still an Activision company. It’s also been relatively standalone until now, with little cross-over content or interference from Activision. If Activision is stepping in now to add new titles to the platform, it could be a response to both dropping subscription rates for current titles like World of Warcraft, with active players down to about 5.19 million in 2018 from a peak high of around 11 million.
But, Activision could also be responding to changing focus inside the company. For example, in 2016, the company acquired $46 million in assets to develop e-sports. Switching Battle.net to focus on other types of massive multi-player games including e-sports could be a big thing for the company (albeit likely with a rebrand of the platform). Activision’s many studios would also create a very strong offering if they chose to switch to an Activision studio gaming platform, which could enable better promotion and more direct sales for the publisher.It also wouldn’t be the first time. Disney is planning to launch a Disney-only streaming platform in 2019 – and several other publishers are following suit.
How Likely Is It?
For now, Blizzard has one Activision game up and one that is likely pending. That’s not a guarantee for anything. But it certainly means that Activision is testing the waters to see how people take it, promoting their games through existing channels, and trying to steer clear of tying their games to other channels like Steam. It could mean anything, but it is worth speculating about.
On the other hand, it could just be Blizzard attempting to launch Call of Duty onto a stable server after Elite’s failure, and the less than positive general feedback surrounding less than compelling Co-op and all the launch issues plaguing Black Ops 3. Launching onto a stable platform like Battle.net ensures most of those problems don’t exist – and gives developers a much larger framework for developing multi-player gameplay.
What do you think? Is Activision planning to launch their own gaming channel to keep games off Steam and other platforms? Or are they simply taking advantage of a strong user-base and platform to promote a game from a franchise that’s frankly on the verge of dying if they don’t come out with a very strong title? Personally, I think it could go either way. Leave your opinions in the comments.