Blizzard Backs Down

In a shocking turn of events – and I am completely serious, no sarcasm here – Blizzard has pulled the plug on forum posting requiring you to use your real name. Score one for the vocalized masses. Before we get too excited, let’s break this down a bit, though, shall we?

“Hello everyone,

I’d like to take some time to speak with all of you regarding our desire to make the Blizzard forums a better place for players to discuss our games. We’ve been constantly monitoring the feedback you’ve given us, as well as internally discussing your concerns about the use of real names on our forums. As a result of those discussions, we’ve decided at this time that real names will not be required for posting on official Blizzard forums.”

 Italicized for emphasis. They’ve not ruled out the idea of doing this in the future, which tells me they haven’t learned a damn thing from all the protests. I suspect they see the fallout from this being bigger than anticipated (obvious from the quote in the USA Today article where they expected no backlash) and don’t want to lose Cataclysm box sales as a result. Mark my words, they’ll try this again after Cataclysm launches.

“It’s important to note that we still remain committed to improving our forums. Our efforts are driven 100% by the desire to find ways to make our community areas more welcoming for players and encourage more constructive conversations about our games. We will still move forward with new forum features such as conversation threading, the ability to rate posts up or down, improved search functionality, and more. However, when we launch the new StarCraft II forums that include these new features, you will be posting by your StarCraft II character name + character code, not your real name. The upgraded World of Warcraft forums with these new features will launch close to the release of Cataclysm, and also will not require your real name.”

 This is great news, but read between the lines with me a bit here – they are looking for ways to make the community areas more welcoming for players. Welcoming. That’s an interesting choice of words, unless of course you’re trying to pull in millions of new players. Why now? Why bother making it “welcoming” now? The Official Forums have been a cesspool for years. I’ll tell you why; it’s because they’re targeting the social gamers who won’t put up with being called a n00b in public, and want name-recognition when they post something great.

 Again, this doesn’t really have much to do with cleaning up the forums for the existing player base at all – it’s all about the Facebookers. (I feel a bit like Gevlon, here. I’ve just replaced Socials with Facebookers.)

Random thought: Seriously; how did we not see this coming with Achievements? Slap ’em on a Facebook Wall with “click here to share in Player X’s achievement to get gold” and you have FarmVille, Mafia Wars, et al.

“I want to make sure it’s clear that our plans for the forums are completely separate from our plans for the optional in-game Real ID system now live with World of Warcraft and launching soon with StarCraft II.

I read this as “I want to make it clear that just because you all won this round doesn’t mean we’re changing the game implementation in the future. WoW, SC II, Diablo III, the next MMO- they’re going to be Facebook integrated, get over it.

“We believe that the powerful communications functionality enabled by real ID, such as cross-game and cross-realm chat, make a great place for players to stay connected to real-life friends and family while playing Blizzard games. And of course, you’ll still be able to keep your relationships at the anonymous, character level if you so choose when you communicate with other players in the game. Over time we will continue to evolve Real ID on to add new and exciting functionality within our games for players who decide to use the feature.”

  You don’t have to be a genius to see that they intend to broaden the scope of use for Real ID – as well as provide perks for those who use it. The “And of course” bit is a nice slap in the face, too. If “of course” we knew we could keep our identities under wraps you wouldn’t have had thousands of posts in protest to it. Don’t patronize your player base with this garbage. You’re trying to get gamers into mainstream acceptance – I get that. Some of us don’t want it. Particularly since you’re not exactly doing it for noble reasons, you’re doing it to capture an additional audience. It’s always about money. For current WoW  gamers, the ability to maintain anonymity is just collateral damage.

In closing, I want to point out that our connection with our community has always been and will always be extremely important to us. We strongly believe that Every Voice Matters and we feel fortunate enough to have a community that cares so passionately about our games. We will always appreciate the feedback and support of our players, which has been a key to Blizzard’s success from the beginning.”

And you know what? I believe this. It has been important to Blizzard, and it still is. The problem is that it’s not just Blizzard anymore. It’s Activision/Blizzard headed by a disciple of the Facebook Open-Honesty religion. They (Blizzard) might have gotten the say-so in this battle, but I don’t think they’ll win the war (against Activision and Facebook).


 There is another excellent write-up about the business side of all this mess here. I’d urge you to read it.

~ by Drew on July 9, 2010.

3 Responses to “Blizzard Backs Down”

  1. […] Drew of The Beast Within puts a rather good commentary on the recanting here. […]

  2. If they are targeting socials, why waste time on the forums? Almost every game I know that has a forum community sees the hardcore on it. Maybe it is a test run for facebook integration.

    • I can see that; I think if you’re welcoming new players into the fold, however, that Blizzard might want to have a one-stop friendly shopping place for them to get tips and hints.

      You certainly could be right on the money about it being a test-run for Facebook integration.

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