Fans lash out at Activision Blizzard’s new Real ID forum feature

Activision Blizzard recently unveiled plans to force their users to use their real names on official forums that they will launch for Starcraft 2 this month and, later this year, for World of Warcraft: Cataclysm as well.

Here is the post from Blizzard that first mentioned this new forum “feature.”

Recently, we introduced our new Real ID feature – http://www.battle.net/realid/ , a new way to stay connected with your friends on the new Battle.net. Today, we wanted to give you a heads up about our plans for Real ID on our official forums, discuss the design philosophy behind the changes we’re making, and give you a first look at some of the new features we’re adding to the forums to help improve the quality of conversations and make the forums an even more enjoyable place for players to visit.

The first and most significant change is that in the near future, anyone posting or replying to a post on official Blizzard forums will be doing so using their Real ID — that is, their real-life first and last name — with the option to also display the name of their primary in-game character alongside it. These changes will go into effect on all StarCraft II forums with the launch of the new community site prior to the July 27 release of the game, with the World of Warcraft site and forums following suit near the launch of Cataclysm. The classic Battle.net forums, including those for Diablo II and Warcraft III, will be moving to a new legacy forum section with the release of the StarCraft II community site and at that time will also transition to using Real ID for posting.

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 — however, the forums have also earned a reputation as a place where flame wars, trolling, and other unpleasantness run wild. 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. With this change, you’ll see blue posters (i.e. Blizzard employees) posting by their real first and last names on our forums as well.

We also plan to add a number of other features designed to make reading the forums more enjoyable and to empower players with tools to improve the quality of forum discussions. Players will have the ability to rate up or rate down posts so that great topics and replies stand out from the not-so-great; low-rated posts will appear dimmer to show that the community feels that they don’t contribute effectively to the conversation, and Blizzard’s community team will be able to quickly and easily locate highly rated posts to participate in or to highlight discussions that players find worthwhile.

In addition, individual topics will be threaded by context, meaning replies to specific posts will be grouped together, making it easier for players to keep track of multiple conversations within a thread. We’re also adding a way for Blizzard posters to “broadcast” important messages forums-wide , to help communicate breaking news to the community in a clear and timely fashion. Beyond that, we’re improving our forum search function to make locating interesting topics easier and help lower the number of redundant threads, and we have more planned as well.

With the launch of the new Battle.net, it’s important to us to create a new and different kind of online gaming environment — one that’s highly social, and which provides an ideal place for gamers to form long-lasting, meaningful relationships. All of our design decisions surrounding Real ID — including these forum changes — have been made with this goal in mind.

We’ve given a great deal of consideration to the design of Real ID as a company, as gamers, and as enthusiastic users of the various online-gaming, communication, and social-networking services that have become available in recent years. As these services have become more and more popular, gamers have become part of an increasingly connected and intimate global community – friendships are much more easily forged across long distances, and at conventions like PAX or our own BlizzCon, we’ve seen first-hand how gamers who may have never actually met in person have formed meaningful real-life relationships across borders and oceans. As the way gamers interact with one another continues to evolve, our goal is to ensure Battle.net is equipped to handle the ever-changing social-gaming experience for years to come.

That was posted three days ago. On the World of Warcraft forums alone, there is one stickied topic by Blizzard with nearly 2500 replies from users. There are dozens more individual topics posted by users that have many replies as well. The amount of people against this change, even though I am on their side, is absolutely staggering.

In a matter of months this year, Activision Blizzard went from the respectable company with a solid line up of good games to what they are portrayed as now, and that is simply nothing more than bad guys. Every major change that they have implemented to their games and battle.net lately has been met with anger from the majority of their users.

It’s interesting to see what some people are saying about this change. Here are just a few of the points people are bringing up about this new system.

  • Children under the age of 13 play Blizzard games. Regardless of what the ESRB rating is, children will still get their hands on these games and play them. When their names become public on Blizzard’s new forums, there will be very little to prevent the truly sick creeps who play Blizzard games from taking advantage of this? Especially when they’re aware that the user is a child? Activision Blizzard reps have said that this can be handled by parents setting parental controls on the accounts so that children will not be able to post. Right, but how many parents will actually do this? Common sense says that a lot of parents will just let their kids fire up the games they buy and do whatever.
  • Current or potential employers will be able to look you up on the internet and see that you play games such as World of Warcraft, which these days carries a very negative aura to it and could certainly harm your chances of landing certain jobs. Yes, employers do look up potential employees very often. It’s common practice in today’s world, and many people have unfortunately had problems at work because of it.
  • If you have breasts, you’re pretty much doomed. The amount of anti-social and creepy super stalkers that exist on the internet is staggering, and some of the stories I’ve heard are pretty unnerving. All it takes is for these stalkers is a real name in many cases. That is all. I’m very thankful that I’m not a girl right now, because this new Real ID forum feature would pretty much kill my desire to play Blizzard games.
  • Back to children. I saw an example that was very frightening. A poster on the World of Warcraft forums said something like this… Jimmy created his battle.net account in his father’s name since he was underage at the time. One day in a contested zone, Jimmy found a low level member of the opposing faction and killed his character relentlessly and repeatedly. The victim, in a fit of rage, looks up Jimmy’s “name” and sees the name of Jimmy’s father, believing it to be the player. This guy then googles the name of Jimmy’s father and conveniently finds out where he works. Without hesitation, he goes there and shoots Jimmy’s father dead. Things like this have happened already, it’s not far-fetched at all. If anything, this example is flat out terrifying.
  • A lot of people play these games to escape from real life, so being anonymous really helps immerse us in that, especially when you’re an adult. Take this away from us and it’s actually quite damaging. It’s forcing real life, and the escape we use to get away from it, into one another and forcing them to become one thing. How can you escape from reality when there is no escape?
  • With your real name being plastered all over the place, all it takes for a malicious person is a quick Google search on your name. If they find anything that undoubtedly relates to you and contains an email address… Well, put two and two together. It means hijacking accounts will become much easier for the determined.

A poster named Sprucelee posted the following on Blizzard’s World of Warcraft general forum, and he also raised some very good points.

After still reading so many new threads, people still don’t get it.

It has little to do with stopping forum trolling and everything to do with you and your friends communicating. Thats right, they want you to communicate, as much as possible. Why? Because it can make Blizzard rich. Watch how.

Social networking isn’t just confined to a single network. IE, this game. Or facebook, or twitter, etc. It’s open-ended, and designed that way. Think of it as you going about you day, interacting with everyone and everything.

Ok, not ground-breaking, I know. The example on how. Imagine we’re a year down the road from where we are now. Blizzard has implemented guild halls within game, everything you can do on an external site (like a guild forum or blog) is now in game.

You joined RealID. You also have a facebook account (like I do) and have a few hundred friends. You have friended or ‘liked’ several corporations as well, like Nvidia. A friend has posted that they upgraded their computer, and put in the latest Nvidia X9000 card. They get 900 fps and the 3D effects are amazing. You respond with saying your 9800 Pro only gets 90. The next morning you log into facebook, hey check that out – an ad for the X9000 card. 10% off! You go buy one.

What happened? Marketing in social networking happened. You’ve agreed to share data between your networks. Your friend is on your network, as is Nvidia. Nvidia saw your post and what you referred from, and sent a targeted ad to facebook.

Who wins? You got a nice discount, Nvidia got a sale, and facebook and WoW got a small cut.

Now all of that above is just an example, its far more detailed than that but I think you get the idea. Since you have elected to share data between your networks anything you do or say can be seen by them. If you are in game and mention to a friend over RealID that you should order a pizza for dinner, don’t be surprised to see an ad for Dominos sitting on facebook the next time you load it. I think you get the idea.

And this isn’t really breaking new ground, TV has been trying to do it for years. IE: My TV can ‘know’ that during 12-4pm that I’m home watching TV. Why? I’m watching war shows, ‘guy’ shows. They want to send me commercials for pick up trucks and sears hardware. From 3-5 pm our tv is watching cartoons. Guess what commercials they want to send? Toys. McDonalds. From 8-10pm our tv is watching Law and Order, Hallmark channel, etc. Commercials for tampons, pocket books, etc are what they want to send. Is this a bad thing? Personally I’d rather not see tampon commercials.

Anyway welcome to social networking. And again, this was just an example. The real deal is far more complex on what goes on behind the scenes. I’ve taken classes in modern marketing, and its a gold mine. If you still don’t believe me, do a google search for ‘social networking model’.

Thats why RealID is here. $$$. Oh, its also here to stop trolling… but thats just 1 small piece of the puzzle

Sprucelee is right, too. Heck, everyone railing against this is right. This isn’t about making us have better times playing Blizzard games by increasing the amount of social interaction we can have. That is the last thing it is about, and any argument that Blizzard’s loyal customers bring up will fall upon deaf ears. Sad but true.

Will I purchase and review Starcraft 2 now later this month? A week ago, I would have said YES. Now, I think I might be leaning towards a very stern NO. I even went as far as to cancel my WoW account, which had been active almost steadily since I opened it in August 2005. Sorry Blizzard, but you’ve lost a loyal supporter in me. You used to be the epitome of respected game developers in my eyes. You’re still talented game designers, but respected? I’d rather eat my money than give it to you at this point.

Also, WoW player Dogar from the Area 52 realm has created a site called “Save Blizzard From Itself” which is very informative. Check it out at this link: http://www.saveblizz.com/


UPDATE: Activision Blizzard caves in!

Given the company’s history of implementing horrible features into their games and not going back on their decisions, this is quite surprising! One hour ago at 12:47 PM EST, Blizzard forum poster “Nethaera” posted the following.

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.

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 the ability to rate posts up or down, post highlighting based on rating, 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 Battle.net 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.

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. We believe that the powerful communications functionality enabled by Real ID, such as cross-game and cross-realm chat, make Battle.net 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 game. Over time, we will continue to evolve Real ID on Battle.net to add new and exciting functionality within our games for players who decide to use the feature.

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, ( http://us.blizzard.com/en-us/company/about/mission.html ) and we feel fortunate 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.

Mike Morhaime
CEO & Cofounder
Blizzard Entertainment

You can check out the full topic by clicking here.

Way to go Blizzard! Even I dismissed them as no longer truly caring about their customers. Looks like the gigantic outcry against the proposed forum changes worked.

It’s rare for an event such as this to occur, and today the customers of Activision Blizzard won. Proof that if you are loud enough and there are many of you, then anything is possible!!

However, my WoW account is remaining cancelled until Cataclysm at least, and I am still on the fence about purchasing Starcraft 2. The company saw the light today, but this doesn’t mean that they can be trusted, nor does it mean that they’ll never try a stunt like this again. Beware! 😉

Return to July 2010 Articles

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2 thoughts on “Fans lash out at Activision Blizzard’s new Real ID forum feature

  1. Hello,
    i’m new registered here, i’d like to say thanks to all the mods here,
    i have read a lot here and they helped me a lot.
    Many thanks,
    Mary

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