The Monetization of Battle.Net

Posted by Daeity On Sunday, July 25, 2010

With the launch of SC2 early next week, I'm really looking forwards to one little thing that many have forgotten: in-game ads.

I've been really curious how exactly they're going to pull it off. Of course, it probably won't be implemented right away so as not to spoil the beginner's experience - but you should see something implemented in the upcoming months.

In case you've forgotten (or weren't aware), in-game ads have been updated in Blizzard's TOU documents and Blizzard has hired Microsoft's Massive Inc. to delivery the advertisements. You'll see ads placed mostly on in-game posters, billboards, buildings, or really any texture.


Blizzard's Games and the Service may incorporate technology of Massive Incorporated ("Massive"), a wholly-owned subsidiary of Microsoft Corporation ("Microsoft"), that enables in-game advertising, and the display of other similar in-game objects, which are downloaded temporarily to your personal computer and replaced during online game play. As part of this process, Massive may collect some information about the game and the advertisements delivered to you, as well as standard information that is sent when your personal computer or game console connects to the Internet including your Internet protocol (IP) address. Massive will use this information to transmit and measure in-game advertising, as well as to improve the products and services of Massive and its affiliates. None of the information collected by Massive will be used to identify you. For additional details regarding Massive's in-game advertising practices, please see Massive's In-Game Advertising privacy statement at The trademarks and copyrighted material contained in all in-game advertising are the property of the respective owners. Portions of the Service are © 2008 Massive Incorporated. All rights reserved.
Note: A new advertising page is being created for BNet 2.0, but you can still see the old one at:

When Rob Pardo first announced Blizzard's new directive (making more money from, a lot of people were worried that he meant subscription based fees for SC2 and Diablo 3. However, Blizzard has promised that it is not their intention.

But Blizzard isn't exactly known for keeping their promises.

In World of Warcraft, for example, a lot of the promised content that was never implemented comes to mind. They also said that there would be no micro-transactions for World of Warcraft.

Regarding Diablo 3, Rob Pardo said in the interview: "Here's the way I would put it. We're definitely not looking at turning Diablo into a subscription based game."

That leaves it open to interpretation, in case they change their minds later. It's "corporate-speak", and you'll see that a lot of that same wording from gaming industry representatives:
  • "We currently do not have any plans for.."
  • "We're not looking at it right now.."
  • "Presently, we have no plans to.."
Rockstar Games said the same about Red Dead Redemption for the PC. Guess we'll see..

Now personally, I don't think SC2 or Diablo 3 will be subscription based.. but Battle.Net might be, especially because of their new corporate direction and vision. The "free online versions" of SC2 and Diablo 3 will always be an available option, but BNet could incorporate subscription based fees for premium content and features (e.g. to make things more "convenient" for users like priority queuing or special access to events and competitions.)

Just like WoW, they're going to milk BNet for all it's worth.. virtual sales (micro-transactions), real sales (merchandising), and targeted advertising. I'm sure you'll see a Starcraft 2 and Diablo 3 "store" in the future.. specialty pets, premium maps, customization of characters (paid name changes), special upgrades, or unit model changes. I can't wait to spend $25 to change my Terran unit armor from blue to red!

With the social networking features being added, it's going to significantly increase ad-targeting potential as well as increase sales (users inviting friends, promoting the game, etc.) It's funny how so many corporations are trying to cash in on each other's markets. Twitter wants to get into advertising, Google wants to be a social platform, Facebook wants to be a search engine, and Blizzard wants it all. (Blizzard's new social features are also being heavily incorporated into their "Next Gen MMO" but I'll talk about that later..)

Starcraft 2 LAN Play - Why was it really removed?

I often wonder if the monetization of BNet was the deciding factor in leaving LAN play out of Starcraft 2.

You see, when users are playing LAN Starcraft 2, there's really no purpose to being online - or should I say, that's a common belief. An internet connection might just get in the way of gameplay, so independent networks are created for small/medium LAN parties (30-50 people on one DSL will plug up the pipe and even be against ISP terms of service). Usually though, LAN parties will have internet access. But Blizzard can't take that chance! If users aren't connected to the internet, then they won't be receiving in-game advertisements.. all of that potential revenue lost.. it's completely unacceptable.

It's easier just to remove LAN play, save some money on development, and blame it on the classic piracy scapegoat.

Here was Blizzard's (Bob Colayco, Blizzard PR) official response regarding LAN play:
"We don't currently plan to support LAN play with StarCraft II, as we are building to be the ideal destination for multiplayer gaming with StarCraft II and future Blizzard Entertainment games. While this was a difficult decision for us, we felt that moving away from LAN play and directing players to our upgraded service was the best option to ensure a quality multiplayer experience with StarCraft II and safeguard against piracy."
Blizzard also said, "We want to make an online experience so good, that you won't want to have a LAN party." (Source)

So the reason for removing LAN play is because it doesn't fit in with the direction of BNet services (interesting.. like ad-targeting perhaps?), it will ENSURE a quality multiplayer experience, and it will safeguard against piracy.

* UPDATE: I've created a visual aid (Fair Use FTW)

But how can you have a "quality multiplayer experience" if you lose internet connectivity, are under heavy latency, Blizzard servers crash, or your ISP has issues? Can you ENSURE 100% uptime of servers and personal internet connections? Bottlenecking the users does not ensure quality.

Regarding piracy, there is no safeguard against piracy. (Unless it's a streaming game where no data is stored locally.) Every single game has been cracked and there has never been any method of "copy protection" that has actually "protected against copying." Copy protection is a myth.. there are "copy protection approaches" but that's it. In fact, removing copy protection measures actually makes it more convenient for the user and improves their gaming experience (case in point: No-CD cracks.)

If Blizzard doesn't implement a much-need feature, then someone ELSE will implement it.

Look at Kali for example, it filled a void because of a missing feature.

And then there's BNetD and PvPGN which are fully available (and open-source) BNet emulators that allow LAN play of Warcraft 2, Warcraft 3, Starcraft, Brood War, Diablo 1 and Diablo 2. There are thousands of BNet emulated servers out there providing the service that everyone wants.

Future versions (and probably alternative software) will support SC2 and Diablo 3. Blizzard knows this, there will be LAN play and they won't be the ones providing it.

History has proven that removing features to prevent piracy will actually increase piracy. Those who forget the past and all that.

(On a side note.. wouldn't it be funny if private BNet servers implemented their own in-game advertisements? WoW gold sellers would be a nice touch.)


Two months after that video was released, Bobby Kotick has now decided NOT to implement in-game advertisements into Starcraft 2. I guess they changed their minds after the massive uproar (just like mandatory Real ID).
"There was a time where we thought advertising and sponsorship was a big opportunity, but what we realized is our customers are paying $60 for a game or paying a monthly subscription fee and they don't really want to be barraged with sponsorship or advertising," Kotick explained.
They were fully intending to implement in-game ads, they had a relationship with Massive, Inc. all set, but now the plan has been cancelled, their Terms of Use has been revised again, and that new (2.0) advertising page was pulled too. =]