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Blizzard considering payment possibilities of Battle.net

COO Paul Sams reveals monetising plans and marketplace features for new "bigger, grander" service

Blizzard is currently looking into "all sorts of possibilities" for Battle.net the company's CEO Paul Sams has told GamesIndustry.biz, including ways of monetising its newly announced marketplace.

"We're trying to figure out how marketplace is going to work exactly and how consumers are going to be able to interact with that marketplace," said Sams, speaking exclusively at this year's BlizzCon. "It's certainly possible that there could be a charging mechanism at some point - we're looking at all possibilities for each of the areas of Battle.net."

But while smaller scale Blizzard products and pay-for content hasn't been ruled out - time will tell on that, said Sams - the COO does doubt the service will ever follow in the footsteps of Steam, offering itself out for use by other companies.

"I think at the moment our focus is squarely on Blizzard products and we need to make sure that what we're doing is right for our games," he explained. "It's also a big differentiator for us. There's really not a lot of companies out there that can or are willing to do this because it's a huge expense.

"I never want to say never on questions like this but we've got to get our stuff straight and we certainly aren't going to think about third-parties if we don't have our act together. And there's a lot of work to do between now and then," he added.

All of this Battle.net work is a contributing factor to the delay of StarCraft II, which is to utilise the updated service, as the company admitted during a recent investor call. The hold-up being, said Sams, the sheer ambition behind the relaunch of the service.

"People say, it's just Battle.net, it's just match-making right? It's really not - it's far beyond that. We've only scratched the surface. We can only say so much right now, but the plans are much bigger, much grander. And have long-term positive implications for gamers."

If Battle.net is going to be relaunched, according to Sams it needs to launch in a way that doesn't "short-change the players".

"You can't just go, okay here's this extra little feature, and this little feature and this one...

"We have a trust relationship with players. We have, I believe, not let them down all that much if at all on a big scale. And we've been able to, over a decade and a half, build that trust in our players so they know that if they buy a Blizzard product they're going to get a good quality experience," he explained.

As such, it was a test of his belief in Blizzard's developers - who "decide that stuff" - when they announced they wanted to make Cataclysm - an expansion which will reuse existing content from the franchise.

"Was it a tough decision for me? Yes," said Sams, "but they're gamers, they know what gamers want next. They even know sometimes what the gamers want next before the gamers know what they want next."

You can read the full interview with Sams, where he discusses the StarCraft II delay, the feeling about the game internally and why he thinks a new non-WoW title won't be difficult for Blizzard to deal with, here.

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Kath Brice