Blizzard’s Canessa: online services “just scratched the surface”

Blizzard Entertainment’s Greg Canessa is pretty much an expert at creating online game networks. Before joining Blizzard and working on the relaunching of Battle.net, Canessa spent time at PopCap as well as helping develop Xbox Live, which added social networking features on top of Microsoft’s foundation of online gaming.

Today, Canessa is working on expanding the online videogame experience so that there’s more social networking, more competition and more fun for players in the online realm. “I feel like honestly we’ve tapped five to 10 percent of what’s ultimately possible out there,” says Canessa, “and in 15, 20 years we’ll look back at this time, [and realize] we’ve just scratched the surface of what’s possible with the game service, by way of social features, community features, meta-game features and competitive features.”

You can tell Canessa sees no reason why entire games can’t be based on online functionality when he says, “The point is the game service, if done right, can enhance the gameplay experience in ways that are totally critical to the game’s success itself.”

That’s ambitious, but we’re certainly headed in that direction. Most shooters nowadays feature online multiplayer modes that are multiple times more popular than their campaign modes. Sports games have started to feature online franchise modes that allow players to compete in a league full of real people. Because competing against real people is always more fun than playing against the machine, Canessa’s dreams have a good chance of being realized.

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