After many years of waiting and praying, parched Australian fans of video game giant Blizzard Entertainment might finally be about to taste a drop of video game heaven, with speculation intensifying tonight that the maker of the World of WarCraft, Diablo and StarCraft franchises might finally launch a local server for its Battle.net online gaming platform.
According to the Twitter account of EB Games, the news may be revealed in the new issue of Gameinformer magazine — due out on Wednesday morning. “New Gameinfomer mag out tomorrow includes a world exclusive article on the new local Battlenet server! A MUST HAVE for all Blizzard fans!” the retailer wrote online tonight.
The news comes as Blizzard and partners gear up for what is expected to be one of the gaming industry’s biggest launches of the year on 27 July — the sequel to its immensely popular StarCraft franchise, a decade in the making. EB Games has already received copies of StarCraft II — although it is not yet allowed to sell them.
Blizzard had originally planned to region-lock Australians to only be able to play on to South-East Asian servers for StarCraft II. The issue has whipped Australian gamers into a frenzy, especially on the Blizzard community forum. If the decision was to be enforced Australian StarCraft 2 gamers would only be able to go against South-East Asian players in multiplayer matches — forget it if those Australian gamers had friends in the US or Europe they wished to play against.
The Asian server location also riled tensions for the reported bad response times Australians received to its location compared to the relatively good connection to servers in the US. Late last month Blizzard’s community team followed up on the forums, stating:
“We appreciate everyone taking the time to provide us with their current network paths. Many of the results are showing good pathways and nice pings, as expected. But we’re actively working with regional ISPs to address connections that are not currently optimized. We need to have as much data as possible, so if you live in Oceania and haven’t already, please perform a traceroute and post your results.”
Blizzard would not comment on which regional ISPs it was referring to. However, earlier this month Delimiter contacted major ISPs for comment. A Telstra spokesperson had responded with, “No further comment to add”, Optus did not provide a response and Internode had no comment to make.
iiNet chief executive Michael Malone said: “No, as far as I know, we haven’t had any approach from Blizzard.” He added tonight that it was something the ISP would welcome, however.
Internode managing director Simon Hackett has previously acknowledged the need for Australian Battlenet servers in April this year. “We have held talks with Blizzard about this issue for many years. We continue to engage with them on it,” he said at the time.
Local real-time strategy gamer Leigh Stark said a local Battlenet server would be “excellent”.
“I think Australian gamers are tired of an almost back-handed insult to the lack of a server. Who actually likes lag?” he said tonight, adding: “I’ve not played Starcraft 2, but the last time I played WoW, I didn’t have the greatest ping. This would be a win.”
The Australian competitive StarCraft II scene has started to heat up over the past few months due to the availability of a beta or testing version of the game, which has allowed the video game giant to test and tune the multiplayer functionality of the game over a six month period. A number of competitive players of the original StarCraft and WarCraft 3 games have made the transition to StarCraft II, including Australians known online as Filthy, mOOnGLaDe and inSync.
Some of the players have competed in international tournaments, and at least one local display of Australian talent has been held to great local interest.