Battle.net integrating Facebook features

Starcraft II launch will let users of Blizzard's online matchmaking service import friends from the ubiquitous social networking site; further integration planned.

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In an effort to tap into the latest youthful trends, more and more game companies are jumping on the Facebook bandwagon. The past few weeks gave seen Ubisoft and LucasArts eschew press releases and announce game delays and launch dates via the ubiquitous social networking site. On a larger scale, Sony and Microsoft have incorporated Facebook into the dashboards of the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360, although the latter requires an Xbox Live Gold account for access.

"This just in: Game publishers use Facebook to cultivate a youthful air."

Today, Blizzard Entertainment announced that it, too, will be integrating Facebook with its online gaming service, Battle.net. Starting with the July 27 launch of Starcraft II: Wings of Liberty, players will be able to import their Facebook friends into friends lists on their Battle.net accounts. The feature will also be added to the ongoing Starcraft II beta test, which can be accessed by preordering the real-time strategy sequel at GameStop. (Orders cannot be canceled once GameStop sends out the beta key.)

Blizzard emphasized that importation of Facebook friends was just the "first step" in Battle.net's integration with the social network. The developer publisher promised that "other Facebook-related features on Battle.net will be announced at a later date" but did not go into specifics. It did not say if the features would be rolled out with the later installments in the three-part real-time strategy sequel.

Starcraft II is the first new stand-alone game from Blizzard Entertainment since World of Warcraft, which has dominated the subscription-based massively multiplayer online role-playing market since its 2004 launch. Wall Street analysts are bullish on the RTS game's potential sales, with Pacific Crest Securities' Evan Wilson predicting that the game will sell more than 6 million copies. Wedbush's Michael Pachter believes that, combined with the launch of the latest WOW expansion, Cataclysm, Blizzard could see game sales of 12 million units this year.

For more on Starcraft II, check out GameSpot's recent hands-on preview, as well as an evaluation of its beta performance.

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