Blizzard games will be coming to Steam, starting with Overwatch 2 on 10th August, giving PC gamers an option outside of Battle.net for where they buy and play their Blizzard games.
The company explains that “as we’ve evolved, the industry has evolved too–gaming is no longer just for specific communities as it was when Battle.net launched over two decades ago, gaming is for everyone–and though we remain committed to continually investing in and supporting Battle.net, we want to break down the barriers to make it easier for players everywhere to find and enjoy our games.”
It’s not clear how broad Blizzard’s move toward Steam will be, with the company merely promising a “selection” of games coming to Steam. Overwatch 2 is now a free-to-play game since its reboot in late 2022, so reaching as many players as possible is key, but a game like Diablo 4 is currently raking in cash as a paid release, and on PC will be driving people toward using Battle.net where Valve wouldn’t be taking a cut.
Even though Blizzard games will be coming to Steam, players will still need to sign up for a Battle.net account in order to play. The Steam version will have native achievements and support for Steam friends lists, including the ability to invite friends to play.
The decision by Blizzard comes in with the looming promise of great change for the company. Microsoft is getting closer to completing their near-$70 billion acquisition of Activision Blizzard, winning a court battle in the US and coming back to the negotiation table with the UK’s regulator. There’s a new deadline to complete the purchase by 18th October, and after that point, we can be sure that they will quickly move to bring the biggest games into Xbox Game Pass on console and Windows.
However, after a good few years trying to make the Microsoft Store happen for video games, Microsoft has also published all of their games on Steam since 2019, knowing that this is where many PC gamers like to maintain a single game library.
In the mid-2010s, Activision also took a more isolationist approach to their published games, making Call of Duty games exclusive to Battle.net with the 2018 release of Call of Duty: Black Ops 4. This was a “resounding failure” according to Microsoft’s lawyers, that failed to increase the number of Battle.net users, and after a few years Activision relented and brought last year’s Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II back to Steam.
What happens after a Microsoft acquisition isn’t obvious. When the company bought up Bethesda, the Bethesda Launcher was sunset not long after, allowing users to migrate over to Steam, though Bethesda hadn’t gone fully exclusive to that platform. It likely wouldn’t make sense to do the same with Battle.net, given how it’s been the company’s only digital storefront since it was launched.