New "similar to Xbox Live"

Vision outlined for "social gaming network".

Perhaps feeling the need to explain to shareholders why it was delaying StarCraft II, Activision Blizzard has given a broad explanation of the features we can expect from its new online gaming service.

Underlining just how important is to the company, Blizzard's paymaster, Activision chief executive Bobby Kotick, weighed in on the subject with investors yesterday. He said it would be "similar to Xbox Live", "a social gaming network across all Blizzard's future games" and no less than "an investment in the future of gaming".

Blizzard boss Mike Morhaime stepped in to back up his boss' hyperbole. He said would "add social networking features, cross-game communications, unified log-in and account management and more," according to Gamasutra's account of yesterday's earnings call.

"Eventually, it will allow [players] to connect, communicate and share experiences with each other through the service regardless of which Blizzard games they are playing," Morhaime said.

The unified login is already available, including the possibility of merging an existing World of Warcraft account with a account.

Supporting Kotick's Xbox Live namecheck, we already know that WOW's Achievements - one of the closest and cleverest imitations of Microsoft's revolutionary system to date - will eventually become an integrated system across all Blizzard games.

Morhaime and Kotick's comments and repeated use of words like "social" and "communication" suggest that such other Live features like integrated voice chat, messaging, friends lists and alerts will make it into

We may learn more at BlizzCon in two weeks' time. Eurogamer will be there, so stay tuned.

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