Activision/Blizzard’s online role playing game World of Warcraft (WOW) continues to amaze me. With more than 11.5 million monthly subscribers it is one of the most successful online gaming models ever created. This past Tuesday Blizzard announced a new feature called ‘Real ID’ to be used on its official bulletin boards. This feature would require a person to submit his real first and last names in order to submit comments. It appears to be first tested on a new game release called StarCraft II but it appears the ultimate plan is for the new policy to apply to all forums.
They have put it under the banner of helping improve the quality of conversations and make the forums better places for players to visit. Blizzard said in a blog post that the change was intended to “help improve the quality of conversations and make the forums an even more enjoyable place for players to visit.”
“The official forums have always been a great place to discuss the latest info on our games, offer ideas and suggestions, and share experiences with other players,” and it went on to offer, “However, the forums have also earned a reputation as a place where ‘flame wars’ (vitriolic commenting), trolling, and other unpleasantness run wild,” Blizzard said.
“Removing the veil of anonymity typical to online dialogue will contribute to a more positive forum environment, promote constructive conversations, and connect the Blizzard community in ways they haven’t been connected before.”
The gamers are almost unilaterally opposed. And furious, if not possible vindictive (many have posted they will quit the game, never post again etc.)
Anonymity, for better or worse, has been used in online gaming since it began. Apparently after receiving a backlash, one community manager, under his former alias Bashiok, decided to test the system with his real name. The results were not so kind. Within minutes of internet sleuthing, everything from his personal life to the names of his wife and children were put on public display. None of this is surprising at all, given how much information is published on the internet.
Is it any wonder why the gamers are apoplectic? Many people rely on anonymity as they move around the internet.
Companies understand that that there are problems with spamming, griefing, threats, etc. but a large amount of Blizzard’s customers think that showing their real names is infinitely worse. The gamers feel if Blizzard continues on this track, the practice could spread to other networks like the PSN. Perhaps now, the outcry will have them think again.
But for me the real questions are – 1) How is this serving the membership and community? 2) Why now? 3) What will be done with the data?
What do you think – good idea? Bad idea?