Blizzard has been a trailblazer when it comes to innovation in gameplay and design, but over the years they’ve fallen behind in some more obvious categories, like delivering modern social tools to their players. However, devotees of World of Warcraft, Diablo, and others that needed to use Slack or Discord for their team communication can rejoice: the present has finally arrived for Battle.net.
An update yesterday added some highly sought-after and long-awaited social features to Blizzard’s desktop app. A new “Social” tab will allow players to manage their friends list and their own profiles, which can now be easily updated with new avatars, short bios, and links to personal social media accounts. It’s a welcome addition, seeing as these community features are basically the standard now—and Steam has had them since 2007. Still, better late than never.
Also new to the Battle.net app are “Blizzard Groups,” where like-minded players can join up, keep in touch, and develop team strategies for Overwatch, Heroes of the Storm, or a good old-fashioned World of Warcraft raid. Groups can have multiple voice or text chats, a clear response to services like Discord (or in the past, Skype and TeamSpeak) being essentially a necessity for coordinating within Blizzard games. Whether these features can truly replace Discord—which has 45 million viewers and just this morning announced video chat and screen sharing—is anyone’s guess, but much like the “Social” tab, it’s much better than nothing.
The final new addition is simple, but has been on the community’s wishlist for some time now: players now have the option to appear offline while playing games. Going invisible is a basic feature of almost every social networking platform, and one that Blizzard has been promising since 2012. Now, at last, you can play Hearthstone until three in the morning without your friends bothering you or teasing you for it.
It was a long time coming, but it seems that Blizzard is ready to put some more effort into their integrated social experience. You can find their official announcement here.