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World of Warcraft users blast Blizzard's 'Real ID' rule (update: Blizzard retreats)

Would you steer away from this post if you had to use your real name to leave a comment here?

Santa Monica, Calif.-based Activision Blizzard just put that question to many of its customers. In a post earlier this week on its Battle.net forums, the game developer informed players of its popular Starcraft and World of Warcraft games, among others, that they would soon have to use their legal monikers when chatting about their in-game exploits on its forums.

Blizzard defended the change as a necessary move to stop spamming and trash-talking:

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.

As of this morning, 74 pages of comments follow that post. The ones I've read don't seem too positive about Blizzard's move. Typical reply, from "Marine71": "What an awful idea. Who comes up with this trash? Seriously. What happened to you, Blizzard?"

Other Battle.net threads debating the move dwarf that: On the World of Warcraft "General Discussion" forum, the argument now runs nearly 2,000 pages long--and that's only for North American users.

Even think tanks have gotten into the debate: The Center for Democracy and Technology's Sean Brooks decried Blizzard's move in a post titled "Blizzard Looks To Chill Forum Speech with Real ID" on the Washington nonprofit's blog.

(Blizzard certainly erred in giving its new identity scheme the same name -- "Real ID" -- as an unpopular law for government-mandated driver's-license standards that the Feds now seem anxious to throw out at the next highway rest stop.)

I must admit here that I know next to nothing about the culture of Blizzard's games, aside from realizing that "WoW" is extremely unpopular among spouses who find themselves neglected.

But I have spent some time seeing online communities evolve, and this identity question comes up all the time.

In some forums, it seems natural and logical to use your legal name -- Facebook comes to mind, although many users disregard its prohibition against using pseudonyms. (For that matter, Blizzard, not being the government, can't prove that everybody registers under their real name.)

But in others, almost nobody signs on under their real-world moniker. Check out the comment threads on DCist or FlyerTalk, then try to spot friends or neighbors. Case in point: It took me two years to discover that one fellow FlyerTalker lived within a few blocks of my house.

In still other Internet communities, people haven't figured out what to do. The Post's comments threads, for instance, don't require using real names, but management is apparently considering imposing such a requirement.

Amazon takes a middle ground: You can post reviews under the username of your choice, but writing them under your own name brings extra benefits.

To me, Blizzard seems to be making two core mistakes. First, in most dysfunctional online forums (anybody remember Usenet?) the problem isn't anonymity but unaccountability: If anybody can easily look up everything you've written, and if a site's administrators limit duplicate "sock puppet" accounts, you can't hide from your past words, even if you didn't post them under your name. Second, if people joined a forum under certain ground rules it is, at best, extremely poor manners to change those basic principles years later.

So although I can't tell you anything about the mechanics of WoW and, indeed, would probably get killed instantly in the game, I think I know why its users are angry. How about you? How would you have had Blizzard handle this?

7/9, 2:50 p.m.: Blizzard chief executive and co-founder Mike Morhaime posted a note a few hours ago in the WoW general-discussion forum saying the company had listened and changed its mind. He wrote: "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."

By Rob Pegoraro  |  July 8, 2010; 9:52 AM ET
Categories:  Games , Social media  
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Comments

For starters, your numbers are a little off. The World of Warcraft forum topic is closing in on 2000 pages and 40,000 posts, almost universally negative. The Wall Street Journal reported on this last night from a blog post and it already has nearly 1000 responses. Again, almost universally negative.

The problem is that Activision/Blizzard assured us that our information would remain private when they migrated to their new cross-platform Battle.net service. At first it was optional, but then they required it. When they announced their RealID service, they again assured us it was optional and encouraged us to only add friends and family member we trusted (because our real names would be revealed to them). Afterwards, they changed the service to "friends-of-friends". Now some people we didn't know and didn't accept had access to our real names. Then, last week a glitch allowed certain addons to reveal players real names inside of the game itself without their knowledge.

This next step of requiring real names to be used on the official forums (where players are told to go to report bugs or receive game support) is finally where I had enough. The responsible way to handle forum moderation would be to tie everyone's characters together under one account name that isn't your name, not allowing the craziest of forum browsers to be your de facto forum moderation team by scaring you into posting inoffensively (and no matter what you may say, someone is always offended).

RealID will soon be required in-game. It's clear that's the direction they're taking this Facebook integration fiasco. I've decided to quit after nearly 5 years playing the game (2 accounts - $30/month). My privacy is worth far more than an online game I used to enjoy very much.

Thanks for reporting on this.

Posted by: treesdeil | July 8, 2010 10:17 AM | Report abuse

What the user above said, the numbers are off, there are almost 40,000 posts at this point, and the thread is still going strong. Blizzard corralled everyone to the following post to make comments:

http://forums.worldofwarcraft.com/thread.html?topicId=25712374700&sid=1&pageNo=1887

With many users upset and cancelling their accounts over this (myself among them).

Posted by: Raemira | July 8, 2010 10:26 AM | Report abuse

@treesdell, @Raemira: Thanks for the input. I linked to the shorter thread since that's where Blizzard posted its full announcement (its notice in the WoW forum links back to that post). But, yeah, there's a lot more chatter about this elsewhere on the site. I've added a paragraph noting that.

- RP

Posted by: Rob Pegoraro | July 8, 2010 10:38 AM | Report abuse

Thank you for reporting this. Here is the address for the World of Warcraft forum thread that is mentioned above as closing in on 2000 pages and 40,000 posts. http://forums.worldofwarcraft.com/thread.html?topicId=25712374700&sid=1

The battle.net forum thread he cited has correct numbers, but the World of Warcraft player base is responding to the thread I linked in overwhelming numbers.

I am very disheartened by the direction Activision-Blizzard has taken recently. First, the players were told that the Real ID (real name) system, which enables users to establish connections with other players across Activision-Blizzard games and servers in order to chat and communicate, would be completely optional and should only be used with people we trusted. Now, we are being told that in the future, all forum posts are going to require our Real ID information (i.e. real name). Currently, people who post on the forums are prohibited by rules from publishing real life information such as real names, phone numbers, etc. However, beginning July 27, 2010 (Starcraft II release), Activision-Blizzard will essentially be superseding rules it set forth for its players.

This limits not only free expression, but basic technical and customer support. Many times, individuals are told by in game support to utilize the forums in order to resolve their issue. In the future, people will be forced to give their legal name in order to fully utilize the forum system. This means that players who are concerned about personal privacy are left bereft of the ability to ask for technical support.

For years, Blizzard has actively encouraged players to safeguard their personal information to prevent identity theft, account theft, cyber stalking, and real life stalking. I wonder what caused the sudden change. I wonder, could the Facebook integration deal struck earlier this year be at the heart of this change? Would a company with as sterling a reputation in the gaming industry discard the commitments it's made with loyal customers for a potential increase in marketing profits? How did it come to this, and where is this new direction ultimately heading?

Posted by: Robin2258 | July 8, 2010 10:42 AM | Report abuse

As a resident of the District, it should come as little surprise that I am involved in public policy. I also have a very rare name. There is no way I would ever want a forum identity linked to my real name. If someone disagrees with something I wrote on gaming forum about dragons and wizards, I don't want them Googling me, finding my work contact info / where I live, and next thing I know having 20 pizzas show up, prank calls, or worse. Women in particular are at increased from exposing their real names on internet forums. Consequently, I canceled 2 accounts.

Posted by: Dasty | July 8, 2010 10:43 AM | Report abuse

I can't comment on WoW's shift or how it impacts existing customers. But I will say that I support people communicating under their real names as long as they are 18+. People tend to behave more civilly when they can't hide behind pseudonyms. Having said that, children and whistle blowers should have some protection. But something like a TiVo forum? Let's keep it real.

Posted by: Dave-Z | July 8, 2010 10:52 AM | Report abuse

The forum community is really a small percentage of the total players of World of Warcraft. Of course they are upset, but Treesdeil's claim that Real ID will be required in-game is mere conjecture, brought about by that users feelings towards the forum-side changes. Real ID is aready in the game, but is completely and totally optional. Pissing off the Forum community (which once again is really a small percentage of the player base) is one thing. Pissing off the remainder of the player base is another thing altogther.

I personally, and the people I play with who frequent the forums are tired of the lack of accountability that anonymous postings generate. We welcome this change.

Posted by: Fizzy2 | July 8, 2010 10:58 AM | Report abuse

Many thanks for the article, Rob.

Sadly, forum "trolling" was/is a red herring to detract from the real issue: a recent deal brokered with Facebook for the purposes of long-term data exchange between Activision-Blizzard and Facebook, as originally alluded to in USA Today:

http://content.usatoday.com/communities/gamehunters/post/2010/05/blizzard-and-facebooks-friendly-social-networking-deal-launches-with-starcraft-ii-/1

The new RealID policy, seemingly innocuous and pro-gamer, merely represents "Step One" in a broader joint strategy between the two firms to monetize the subscriber base over time by gradually lifting their anonymity and(d)evolving into some ill-conceived "social gaming network".

In the context of Activision's Facebook strategy, this is another phrase for "targeted advertising pool".

Setting aside the well-publicized annoyance of Facebook ad phishing, there is the simple matter that an overwhelming number of Warcraft and Starcraft II subscribers not only value their online privacy, they *don't* want a merging of World of Warcraft and Facebook. At all.

And as evidenced by *40,000+ posts in the general forum, users are not buying the corporate spin or the smokescreens.

(* That's just the folks that saw the announcement yesterday, and are currently subscribed to the current forums)

Activision is clearly banking on (Blizzard) brand loyalty and just enough subscriber complacency to weather past the backlash and do whatever the hell they want anyway.

Assuming stockholders and board members don't vote otherwise.

For a look at the man behind the curtain, Activision CEO Bobby Kotick:

http://www.geeks.co.uk/7282-activision%E2%80%99s-bobby-kotick-hates-developers-innovation-cheap-games-you

There are a growing number of users employing Facebook to "fight fire with fire":

http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=136118709745171

Thankfully, there are far more subscribers speaking up out of a sense of principle than I had anticipated.

Posted by: Naktab | July 8, 2010 11:04 AM | Report abuse

@Fizzy2 It's not just the Forum community that's pissed off. The admin and mods push you towards posting bug reports and other in-game code related issues on the Forum.

I think it's an unacceptable practice to push users towards using the Forums if they are going to /force/ the users to use their Real Life names.

I only usually read the forums. I rarely post becuase people tend to be very passionate about their ideas, and posts typically degernate. But, I consider my gaming rights as affected as anyone who does post regularly who are upset.

There is a lot of conjecture over whether or not this is because Blizzard Entertainment/Activision now has a deal that lets them integrate with Facebook; which also has the users vastly upset.

Posted by: Raemira | July 8, 2010 11:10 AM | Report abuse

@Raemira,

Let's not forget WoW.com, one of the largest (if not *the* largest) bloggers and power players of the game - and reader responses to the RealID fiasco:

http://www.wow.com/2010/07/07/breakfast-topic-real-id-or-real-bad-idea/

Posted by: Naktab | July 8, 2010 11:15 AM | Report abuse

@ Fizzy2

It is conjecture, but I wholeheartedly believe that requiring RealID in-game is their ultimate goal. They signed a deal with Facebook and have poured money into this new system. Why? Just for the forums and some opt-in features in the game? I seriously doubt it. There's already a Facebook app in development that scans your friends list for Battle.net subscribers and adds them automatically to your account.

RealID is indeed totally optional and they say it will remain that way.

So was Battle.net integration. Until it wasn't.

RealID was only for people you trusted. Until they added friends-of-friends.

RealID was completely safe and secure. Until a glitch allowed your real name to be available in game through an addon without your knowledge.

RealID was only to be used if you wanted to use it. Until they required it on the forums to report bugs or receive game support.

They're making up the rules as they go along and you can bet your privacy is just about the last thing they're concerned about.

Posted by: treesdeil | July 8, 2010 11:22 AM | Report abuse

I did a quick search of the world of warcraft forums, and noted that this link is keeping to be deleted over and over...

https://www.esrb.org/privacy/contact.jsp

Contact them if you wish to actually do something about this change. If the ESRB pulls WoW's rating because of this change, THEY CANNOT SELL any more copies of WoW, they cannot charge us for playing. At least for the US players.

This is a VERY LARGE privacy breach that they are doing. Real ID to start with was borderline but as it was a very optional service though the fact you can get your real name from messaging yourself is an issue. If your account get's hacked, the hacker can and will get your real name thus opening you up for ID theft. That is another issue to report to ERSB.

Report them to the ERSB, post to the WSJ. Blizzard is only going to listen if you hit their pocket book and the best way to hit that is though their stock.

Oh I've said this once before but I will say it again, I think this is a VERY bad idea. Someone will be stalked or worse because of their REAL NAME being thrown everywhere in the game and on the forums.

Posted by: vaclav | July 8, 2010 11:31 AM | Report abuse

@Raemira

"gaming rights"? I do believe that in order to play WoW one has to click "Accept" more than once not to mention before the first time posting on the forums. Let's not delude ourselves into thinking that we're entitled to whatever privileges we deem fit from Blizzard. They are a business and will do whatever is legally possible to benefit themselves. Not trying to bash your statement, just want to clarify that ;)

I can't say that any of these developments are a shock nor should they be. Game integration with social networking is a hot trend, so integration with Facebook makes a lot of sense (but to the dismay of the consumers).

I don't see this as a fight against "the man" but rather a difficult choice we have to make. How valuable is our personal information? It seems to many far more valuable than the privilege to play a video game and post on some forums.

Posted by: bartmaniam | July 8, 2010 11:33 AM | Report abuse

Rob, you nailed it by saying, "... the problem isn't anonymity but unaccountability."

In the 18 or so years I've been engaging with others online, such as forums, I think the issues that Blizzard is facing with regulating the online community is not uncommon to most of the web. I have seen some of the worst examples of human nature in these areas ... and so I believe this issue is much bigger than Blizzard's. And, I want to see us change it.

I believe that the root issue, again, is lack of accountability. This is built into the fabric of our offline lives, so I ask myself why not online as well?

But is the answer forcing people to use their real names? Personally, I think there are far more effective solutions than that. I posted some of these details on InformationWeek's article on this too at http://ow.ly/28I5I , but the gist is this ...

What if Blizzard applied some of their in-game concepts to the community forums? And again this might sound outrageous, but what if online communities were thought of just like offline communities?

If we do this ... I think what we end up discovering are much more effective solutions to build and maintain healthy communities regardless whether the discussions revolve around politics, religion, or what style of chainmail is the hottest fashion item that week.

My thoughts for this specific situation with Blizzard, and please pick them apart and build on them, are to do 3 main things:

1) Center access to certain areas in the forums based off of "respect" points earned -- which these are given by other members. Meaning, you earn respect, you get access to the "higher" levels. When you lose respect points, you lose access and must hangout in the "lower" forums with the trolls while striving to earn your way back up.
2) Make reputations of members dependent on each other. To get certain level of access, you must have one or more sponsors who already garner a high level of respect. You act uncivily, and their reputation is on the line -- so they are forced to either work with you to rectify and improve, or they take away their sponsorship. In more extreme situations, you are voted down the the lower levels by the community, starting from scratch.
3) Strategically connect in-game rewards to forum "respect" levels -- Blizzard has put much thought into the in-game reward system for WoW, so why not tie some of that into the forums? If you reach a certain level in the forums of "respect" points, then you unlock certain features, areas, items within the game. Essentially, your reputation in the game follows you into the forums, and your forum reputation follows you into the game.

There has to be more to it than this ... and I'm guessing someone has already done this, so my hope is that Blizzard's situation can be used to impact many other online communities in how they function and thrive. Essentially, maybe these things will help us learn how to treat each other better online AND offline? Thoughts?

Posted by: JLSpradlin | July 8, 2010 11:33 AM | Report abuse

This is just a Beta test for them I'ld wager. How long until other Activision titles are displaying your real name? How many of your kids play Guitar Hero? Do you think that if this is succesful they will stop at this? I would bet they already have prices prepared for advertising on their new network.

The only thing that will stop this now is public outcry far and beyond players of that game. These companies need to hear that you value your privacy, and do not believe that any company has a right to change their policies in this manner.

This sets a dangerous precedent, and soon I fear the true cost will be some innocent. Already Blizzard employees are being personally attacked and have their personal info plastered across the internets.

Posted by: tehshadowknows | July 8, 2010 11:49 AM | Report abuse

Blizzard sandbagged this change with its customers. They claimed that "Real ID was totally optional", yet it is NOT optional if you must use Real ID to participate in the forum aspects of a World of Warcraft subscription.

The problem here is that a LOT of kids play video games and it seems as if Blizzard wants to make sure that their parents identities are known so the kids won't post rude messages.

Apparently Blizzard never gave a thought or single care to the fact that a lot of parents might not want their true identities distributed because they don't want some sick bastard coming after their kids.

I cancelled my kids WoW accounts and they will remain cancelled until Blizzard announces they have either dropped this requirement or the game finally folds, whichever comes first.

Sad part is, my kids really enjoyed playing WoW with their ingame friends and I approved BECAUSE of the anonymity which protected them online.

Posted by: Sosee | July 8, 2010 11:59 AM | Report abuse

@Fizzy2:

It is NOT confined to the fora. Login to your account and a character.

Paste this code into the chat window:

/run for i=1,100 do if BNIsSelf(i)then BNSendWhisper(i,"RealID whisper from yourself..");break end end

Tell me what you see. This targets you. I could write a mod that does the same thing.

You have already been violated.

Posted by: stratusaugustus | July 8, 2010 12:05 PM | Report abuse

@Sosee

You can disable Real ID in the parental controls section of account management.

Posted by: bartmaniam | July 8, 2010 12:13 PM | Report abuse

Updated EULA information:

DISCLOSURES; THIRD PARTY FEATURES.

1.
Massive.
Blizzard's Games and the Service may incorporate technology of Massive Incorporated ("Massive"), a wholly-owned subsidiary of Microsoft Corporation ("Microsoft"), that enables in-game advertising, and the display of other similar in-game objects, which are downloaded temporarily to your personal computer and replaced during online game play. As part of this process, Massive may collect some information about the game and the advertisements delivered to you, as well as standard information that is sent when your personal computer or game console connects to the Internet including your Internet protocol (IP) address. Massive will use this information to transmit and measure in-game advertising, as well as to improve the products and services of Massive and its affiliates. None of the information collected by Massive will be used to identify you. For additional details regarding Massive's in-game advertising practices, please see Massive's In-Game Advertising privacy statement at http://go.microsoft.com/fwlink/?LinkId=122085&clcid=0x409. The trademarks and copyrighted material contained in all in-game advertising are the property of the respective owners. Portions of the Service are © 2008 Massive Incorporated. All rights reserved.

2.
Facebook.
If you are a registered user of Facebook you may use your Facebook data to enable you to find your Facebook friends on the Service. Your Facebook account is subject to separate terms and conditions provided by Facebook. Note that if you have a Facebook account, your Facebook friends will be able to associate your screen name with your real name on the Service when they use the Facebook friends feature. You hereby acknowledge that Facebook is not responsible for any liability as a result of your use of the Service.

Speaks for itself.

Posted by: Naktab | July 8, 2010 12:19 PM | Report abuse

from my WSJ post :

Cardinalcyn wrote:
.Blizz totally misjudged the gamer community. More accurately, Facebook/ Activision and Battle.net were the ones who missed it: we dont WANT to be permanently, totally, and irrivocably connected in the real world to our gamer-friends.

That sort of ‘connectivity’ is for the dweebs who subscribe to twitter feeds and the like because they cant stand the emptiness inside their own heads and need to fill it with other people’s thoughts…having no original ones of their own.

We LIKE the anonymity and escapism that s inherent in being immersed in a 3D, real-time MMORPG. The last thing we want to do is take an Orc home with us. And we certainly don’t want to have one ripped out of the Gamer-World and given a map to our homes along with the names our parents’ bestowed upon us.

In-Game i AM Cardinalcyn, Shadow Priest, Shadowsong Server. Who I am when I am not playing is none of anyone else’s goddamned business.

Have I made myself clear?

***********************

read the Warcraft/ Forums/ Suggestions for much, much more.

bad idea = bad idea. doesnt matter HOW you try to justify it.

merging gamers with social networking databases is oil & water.

Activision is the new BP.

Posted by: notwildaboutmuch | July 8, 2010 12:28 PM | Report abuse

@ bartmaniam

Disabling Real ID under parental control will not stop the system from disclosing my real name if my kid posts something on the wow forums.

It all hinges on the disclosure of my name.
If my name is going to be disclosed in any way shape or form or if I have to do anything to prevent that from happening, then my subs will remain canceled.

I am not even going to accept an opt out solution either. It is not something that is, for me even remotely negotiable.

If my real name is going to be given out to the public as the account holder, I am not going to be a customer.

Posted by: Sosee | July 8, 2010 12:29 PM | Report abuse

what's scary, is that bashiok, a blizzard poster posted his full name, to show that it was safe. But 5 minutes later, people have found and posted all his information and pictures. Yet, they somehow think it is safe for everyone else?

Posted by: ratrace23 | July 8, 2010 12:29 PM | Report abuse

The real reason the official World of Warcraft forums harbored trolls was due to forum moderators' lackadaisical enforcement of forum rules and because Blizzard allowed people to post under any number of aliases. Most of the annoyance could have easily been addressed by limiting posters to a single handle, or alias -- something that wouldn't have been that hard to implement.

Changing the handle you post under from a character name to a real name will not reduce the troll-to-valuable-poster ratio at all. The mature, helpful, respectful players on the forums are likely to understand about and value their privacy, thus they will stop posting on the official forums. But not so the jerks, the show-off teens, the disturbed. Not so at all. So you end up with a handful fewer trolls and a whole lot fewer decent, community-oriented posters. The new vision for the World of Warcraft forums is not likely to accomplish its stated purpose.

This makes many of us long-time World of Warcraft gamers believe that the "shaming trolls" reason for demanding that all posters use their real life names is hogwash. Given Activision-Blizzard's recent team-up with Facebook, it is much more likely that there is a new business plan in place. The excellent Role Playing Game (RPG) we once knew is morphing into a cross-pollinating enterprise attempting to merge social networking (where real people share real lives with close friends) with RPGs (where people assume an avatar and identity to slay dragons in a fantasy world). These are two distinctly different animals, but the new ActiBliz CEO seems to think that Facebook will entice World of Warcraft users to make pages, and World of Warcraft will pull in new subscribers from Facebook. Sharing user data provides opportunities to promote commercialism on both sides.

This unlikely marriage turns me off totally, and judging by the response from other Warcraft players, I'm not alone. I am standing by to delete my WoW characters and have already canceled the automatic payment for my account. If Blizzard doesn't find a way to satisfy privacy concerns they will lose me as a regular subscriber, a purchaser of their new expansion due out this fall, and any other product.

Posted by: Ennealogic | July 8, 2010 12:35 PM | Report abuse

Good article. However, don't buy that they are doing this for trolls. They are doing this to pad the bottom line by using personal information with third parties (i.e. Facebook). There are much better ways to prevent trolling, but that isn't their true concern, that's just a way to garner support from zealous fans (however many of them might be left).

Posted by: random1778 | July 8, 2010 12:37 PM | Report abuse

Blizzard is adding accountability for public forum posts through the implied threat of real life retaliation. . .

How does this sound right to anyone!

Posted by: longtimewow | July 8, 2010 12:37 PM | Report abuse

Team Liquid wrote a pretty good artical about Activisions partnership with Blizzard Entertainment. It presents the story from a rather neutral standpoint and there's a ton of facts and other articals in there that were really informitave. It's a great 'Step back to see the larger picture' in my oppinion.

http://www.teamliquid.net/forum/viewmessage.php?topic_id=128252

Posted by: AnotherNeko | July 8, 2010 12:38 PM | Report abuse

Blizzard: Real Names, Real Risks
by Mary Landesman, About.com, Antivirus Software Blog

http://antivirus.about.com/b/2010/07/08/blizzard-real-names-real-risks.htm

Posted by: Naktab | July 8, 2010 12:42 PM | Report abuse

A couple interesting points that are relevant to the article. First off there are several "Community MVPs" who have posted that they will no longer continue posting on the Warcraft Forums, no "Community MVPs" have come out in support of this change. "Community MVPs" are a handful of posters (13 total on the US forums) who have been recognized by Blizzard out of the thousands of posters as being particularly constructive and helpful. "Community MVPs" have special Avatars and color coded text.

Another interesting fact is that quite a few posters have already provided their first and last names in this particular thread in a show of support for this move. It is against the ToU for the current forums to list any personal details and these posts have represented a significant portion of the deleted posts in that thread.

Posted by: onigamisama | July 8, 2010 12:43 PM | Report abuse

I do not like this, Sam I am, I do not like green eggs and ham!

Our new ToS (Terms of Service) says something to the effect we will be able to link with Facebook.

Huh?

I don't play an online game between childcare and housework, cooking, and errands to get into discussions with my friends about, yep, housework, cooking, and errands.

I play here and there on occasion, and with my husband an evening or two, as a relatively cheap form of entertainment and time to get away from the stress of real life.

I don't have facebook or twitter. I don't particularly want to spread my name all over cyberspace.

When I post on the forum, it's either giving friendly and helpful advice to newcomers, giving input to Blizzard about a bug or issue, or getting help from technical support.

My name isn't that common, and I'm sure I could be tracked down with some amateur internet sleuthing. So I'm not interested in posting with my real name. The last thing I need is crank calls to the house "wow you're a girl who plays videogames?"

And that's the benign side of things.

People have knifed, shot, and beaten others in this real life of ours because of disagreements online and in video games - and now we have a company offering to helpfully give them yet another way to track people down? Just no.

People are vilified every day for their race, ethnicity, sex, and orientation daily. People are discriminated against, sight unseen, if their name sounds (pick one of the above.) And in the technical support forums, posters are often asked for things like traceroute information, so the person trying to assist them can see where their signal is dropping. Great, customer service sends me to the forum, where I have to use my real name, and now I'm giving area/location information trying to get help. Umm, how about a resounding NO to this?

A lot of forums have trolling and flaming, harassment, and other issues. They can be controlled just as effectively with an "alias" connected to the login account - which could safely be displayed.

Blarney to this being about flaming and trolling - it's the vision of "social networking" connected with the recent Facebook integration that is the driving force here.

I didn't want Facebook before, I don't want it now.

I want to pay for my game, interact with the gaming community constructively but anonymously, and get the services, unhindered, that I'm paying for.

Blizzard has my information on my account. I really don't see the need for 11 million subscribers to have it.

Am I really asking so much?

Posted by: dimichan | July 8, 2010 12:50 PM | Report abuse

I feel the best way to reducing trolling on the forums is for people to choose one alias for the forums to be used whenever they post there. Currently players are able to post as any one of their characters on their account (max number is 50 per account) and the forums have little moderation. These factors lead to the current state that Blizzard decries.

As a gamer I don't want my real name posted on the forums, where I go for technical support or to learn about the game, because I do not want potential employers to search my name and find out how I spend my spare time. As a female, I try and be very selective with the information I put online because I do not want to be the victim of identity theft or stalking.

Posted by: Alba_z | July 8, 2010 12:57 PM | Report abuse

@Sosee

To quote a Blizzard CM: "You will be able to set up Parental Controls to disallow a minor from posting."

I understand your sentiments about privacy, but I hope that options such as these don't get down played. If companies are so keen on implementing such systems, I would expect that there be easily accessible ways to disable them (especially for minors). Not all players disagree with these changes, but that doesn't mean they shouldn't be given the option to opt-out or disable the features along with being made aware of such options.

Posted by: bartmaniam | July 8, 2010 1:02 PM | Report abuse

Along with everything else, there's a problem with the way Blizzard-Activision has composed their responses to their customer's concerns.

They have responded to the issues brought to light, including the very real threat of identity theft and even physical harm, should a particularly unstable player take the notion to heart, with callous disregard for the safety of their users. The term "scare-mongering" was used by one of their designated forum representatives, a term that belittles and dismisses the evidence that such crimes can and do happen.

In addition, they maintain the facade that the changes are intended solely for the purpose of cleansing the forums of malicious users, when viable (and safer) alternatives have been offered many times over. Why, indeed, be so insistent on the use of real names when there are other ways to hold "trolls" responsible for their actions? It baffles me as much as it does the rest of the community.

In any case, the aforementioned horrible display of customer service alone is enough to shake my trust in a company I have subscribed to for four years.

Posted by: Adeleide | July 8, 2010 1:07 PM | Report abuse

Hi Rob! First of all, thank you for writing this article up.

I just wanted to share with you some of the consequences that this Real ID "proposal" (a term I use lightly, given that Blizzard Entertainment forum representatives have stated that they "have heard the outcry", but will "implement the feature" anyway.)

[Source is an interview with Blizzard staff with the people over at GamaSutra: http://www.gamasutra.com/view/news/29325/Blizzard_Were_Definitely_Listening_To_Player_Feedback_On_Real_ID.php]

As of the time I begin writing this comment, the most popular topic on Reddit, i.e. the very first topic you see upon going to Reddit.com, is entitled "What you can find out about Blizzard employees from just a first and last name". Clicking that topic title links to a link to http://asnowstormbyanyothername.blogspot.com/

Firstly, I comment the blogspot user for entitling it as s/he did. Many Blizzard/WoWarCraft forum goers are calling the Real ID debacle a'$h1tstorm' (edited to avoid profanity as required by the Post, but I'm sure you can guess!), so the moniker 'SnowStorm By any Other Name' is quite clever, at least I thought as much.

But I digress. The website has turned the tables on high-ranking Activision-Blizzard staff, in order to illustrate the insane amount of personal information that can be found about a person on the internet, just by starting with the First and Last Name.

For example, Robert Kotick. The CEO of Activision, and considered by many gamers the "Darth Vader" of the industry...(except he doesn't turn out to be a soft-hearted old man willing to sacrifice his beliefs for the good of his 'children'). Let me start with a quote. After first listing his FaceBook page, they give this info.: "Big donations to the GOP ($28,000 in 2007, and raised over $200k for Bush!) but makes $1.5 million a year and just dumped a huge amount of his company's stock at the beginning of this year."

It then goes on to list Kotick's family members, including the ages of his 3 daughters, and that the oldest, Gracie, likes skiing. The author mentions that pictures of them can easily be found, but will not post them for ethical concerns.

It then goes on to list his wife's name, age, where she went to high school, college, and law school, and the years she graduated each. I'll pass along another quote. "She used to be a lawyer in New York, passing her NY bar exam in 1990, but later moved with Bobby to CA and got her license in December 1995." It then lists her personal yahoo email address and phone number.

"[Their] current address is either 1010 or 1011 Cove Way. They own or owned both but surely they don't need two houses, do they?
1011 Cove Way, Beverly Hills, California...
$171,708 for renovations a few years ago, nice place!", along with a Google Maps street view.

This goes on for several other key employees.

It seems the tables have turned, and ActiBlizzion can only blame themselves for not listening and being unwilling to care.

Posted by: TheInfiniteIce | July 8, 2010 1:11 PM | Report abuse

As a long time Blizzard customer and supporter, I am outraged at this recent change. I have been dissenting on the General forums with regards to Activision's antics for some time now, and the RealID implementation brings all previous grudges to a head.

The odd thing is, I agree that forum moderation needs improving, and the community needs to be restored. Too bad this latest move by Activision has NOTHING TO DO WITH FORUM MODERATION. Instead, this has ENTIRELY to do with profit schemes to boost revenue in a game where the subscriber base has been dwindling. Activision's merger with Blizzard, and the subsequent control given to CEO Robert Kotick, has led to numerous changes designed at making the game more accessible to the casual gamer. This in turn helps profit margins. On top of that, they have released a variety of paid services that were widely regarded as detrimental to gameplay.

However, this most recent blunder takes the cake. By making people's real names public they are endangering the personal safety, job prospects, and reputations of all 11 million subscribers, should they choose to post on the Blizzard forums. On top of that, this change is being implemented as part of a new partnership with Facebook designed at sharing information for targeted marketing / ad revenue.

The Forums are rightly outraged, with close to 40,000 responses in only 48 hours, with hundreds more coming by the minute. To put that in perspective, the 2nd largest thread ever on Blizzard's World of Warcraft forum had 3741 posts spanning 8 days. Despite the community coming together as it NEVER HAS BEFORE, Blizzard representatives made clear that the change will be implemented as planned. This is a slap in the face to anyone who has ever paid for or played a Blizzard game over the past 15 years.

The source of the problem? Activision. Google 'Bobby Kotick' and read up on his history as a gaming CEO. The man cares nothing for quality, or the consumer...only profits. I have cancelled my account and I urge others to spread the word. I will NOT preach in an attempt to persuade subscribers one way or the other, only to illuminate the situation and provide facts with which others can make educated decisions.

To all gamers, I hope to see you in a new MMO that was as great as WoW was.

Posted by: Kam96 | July 8, 2010 1:12 PM | Report abuse

I should clarify that my above post listed a source at GamaSutra. That source was to credit the parenthesized quote that Blizzard 'was listening, but will implement the change regardless of response'.

i.e., it's not the source of the Employee information. The blogspot page is, and it's made most popular topic on Reddit.

Also, the line starting with "Firstly, I comment the blogspot user for entitling it as s/he did" contains an error. The word 'comment' should read as 'commend'.

Cheers! I haven't seen any other media outlets report on this part yet. I hope somebody does soon, because ActiBlizzFaceBook, or whatever title is appropriate at this point, is truly getting a taste of their own medicine.

Posted by: TheInfiniteIce | July 8, 2010 1:17 PM | Report abuse

It seems thta people like the Activision CEO know hwat's best for us, and our concerns are misplaced.

Here, let me rest my head on this chopping block you have so kindly provided ......


NOT!!!

Posted by: notwildaboutmuch | July 8, 2010 1:30 PM | Report abuse

Like some 50,000 other Warcraft users I posted my 2cents worth yesterday about not agreeing with the policy of RealID and the use of real life names on Blizzards forums.
Today I woke up to find that Blizzard had banned me from their boards for 5 days. Apparently if you do not agree with Blizzard on this you are quietly and systematically silenced.
Blizzard clearly knows that words have power and there is no better way to eliminate the problem then to delete user posts and ban their own users for simply not agreeing with their policy.

Posted by: Rav_Bunneh | July 8, 2010 1:39 PM | Report abuse

@Rav_Bunneh

Did you post in the main thread or make your own?

Posted by: bartmaniam | July 8, 2010 1:51 PM | Report abuse

It's a role playing game populated by minors! Of all the places to start demanding real identities and enforced posting identification. These are real identities of children that are going to start to be posting publicly on the internet unless parents have actively followed and watched this game, and its bylaws evolve over 5 years. How many active control parents do you suppose that is.

Sadly, this has zero to do with the forums, and more to do with Activisions' announced deal with Facebook from May, where they are trying to build a new social network with Real ID.

Additionally, this also conforms to new internet identity laws in China and Korea, that happen to be big business areas for Blizzard.

So yes, in the age of identity theft and predators, lets start by publicly outing children who are playing a role playing game, all for the sake of foreign dollars.

Posted by: spynnal | July 8, 2010 1:57 PM | Report abuse

@rav_bunneh

I was also banned. Ostensibly for "Distributing real-life information" in the forum. Patently untrue.

The forum is not the beginning. The beginning was Real-ID. There are in-game API calls to retrieve your Real-ID. Currently, the API functions on the client. That means it can be blocked (go to curse or wowinterface and look at BlizzBugsSuck addon). It will take a very short time for Blizzard to correct the mistake and have it be a server-side object.

Posted by: stratusaugustus | July 8, 2010 2:06 PM | Report abuse

I find it interesting that Blizzard is trying to spin the conversation about this on the forums in question. I posted a link to this article, it got deleted, and when I reposted it I was banned for a week.

Posted by: TonyKP | July 8, 2010 2:12 PM | Report abuse

I Laude the initiative. In my online gaming experience,I am frequently so turned off by the vitriol, abuse and hatred spewing from way too many users to the point that I actually stopped being interested in online games. I have felt for sometime that some accountability for one's online behavior should exist. Way too many people use the anonymity of the internet to bully and abuse people in ways that are unacceptable in the real face-to-face world,and online game forums are overflowing with this type of unacceptable behavior ( not just WoW ).

Just to be clear, This is a post in favor of Blizzard's RealID initiative.

Posted by: graybiker | July 8, 2010 2:22 PM | Report abuse

@ graybiker:
This won't control forum abuse, but will discourage anyone female, anyone with a family to protect, anyone with an unusual name, anyone with a non-locked facebook, anyone with a high profile profession... etc from posting.

People who troll and buy monthly game cards are more likely to use a fake name. They have nothing to lose.

Then again, there won't be any constructive posts TO troll - those of us who have reported bugs, tested patches, and contributed help and "how to's" for others needing assistance won't be posting.

Also - those directed to the Technical Support forum by phone and in game support will be outta luck.

Not a fair measure in the name of control when an anonymous handle could do the same job.

They have all my info - but the rest of the world doesn't need it. They already HAVE my real name - why should Stalker Joe who gets his kicks from making crank calls from his throw-away cellphone from Montana have it???

Posted by: dimichan | July 8, 2010 2:30 PM | Report abuse

No, I did not make my own topic. I simply hit reply and was between the 30k and 35k person to reply.

Posted by: Rav_Bunneh | July 8, 2010 2:34 PM | Report abuse

"Blizzard has my information on my account. I really don't see the need for 11 million subscribers to have it. Am I really asking so much?"

Bravo! That strikes to the heart of the matter! Blizzard already has the information it needs to ban people who repeatedly violate forum rules. If regulating the forums has become too troublesome, then close them. Instead, Blizzard is effectively saying "we're going to give out your real name so you will behave." I've never posted on the forums (and under this policy, never will). So to me, RealID is the equivalent of punishing the whole class for the actions of 2 people.

Posted by: ClaireBennet | July 8, 2010 3:13 PM | Report abuse

First, at the moment there is a syntax typo on one of your links (the one starting with "apparently" begins with "ttp" and not "http".)

Well, most people here know a lot more about this game than I. I guess the company has the right to maintain some decorum on its forums. If it thinks this is the best way fine with me.

Let the users make their own forum on Yahoo groups or some other independent site on which they have control. Who says the company has to host and control it?

As far as The Washington Post, I agree using real names would improve the quality of the comments. I subscribe and comment on the Wall Street Journal site, where my real name is entered by default for most commenting. Once posted, I get about 10 minutes for last-minute edits. The quality of the discussion is greatly improved when real names are used. Sometimes they do something when real names are not required -- you just enter a nickname -- and the quality goes down.

So why doesn't the Post just do it? I don't know, but I guess it is page views. The more comments from knuckleheads you get, you get more page views which is a statistic worth money in itself. The Post also dips into these database sites like outbrain.com, apture.com, doubleclick, etc. that you see s l o w l y roll by while you are waiting for your next Post page to load. There must be 10 or so. So, the Post gets a few cents a page from that. It adds up.

Posted by: Bitter_Bill | July 8, 2010 3:29 PM | Report abuse

This change goes against everything that most users love Blizzard for being. Most people I know that play WoW or other Blizzard games think, or at least though, that Blizzard was a company different from others, that they really did care about their customers. But this incident does more than what the above have said.

It does more than risk or security, it shows that they aren't that company that we though they were. It shows that to Blizzard, I and my fellow players are simply money. It shows that they don't care about our security or our opinions, as can be seen by their blatant ignoring of the largest thread on the forums that their idea will destroy.

Over 12,000 unique users have posted on the thread. It's longer than a novel at over 2,000 pages and contains over 40,000 individual comments. Two of those are from employees of Blizzard, the first one, and one days ago. Since then, not a single response has come from Blizzard, beyond the banning and deleting of posts that has been rampant.

Posted by: TravisS | July 8, 2010 3:38 PM | Report abuse

Blizzard accuses nay-sayers of fear mongering, when in their own announcement, they expect the threat of violence or social repercussions to be a dissuading factor in whether or not people post.
This whole system puts women, minorities, and military personnel and their families at risk. They promised we would have anonymity, we trusted them, they breached that trust. DO NOT LIKE, DO NOT WANT.

Posted by: merlinsghost | July 8, 2010 3:40 PM | Report abuse

Please also note that the WoW-Europe Forums:
http://forums.wow-europe.com/board.html?forumId=10001&sort=1&desc=true&sid=1&pageNo=1

Have a similar outcry, though they are not keeping their outrage to the single announcement thread:
http://forums.wow-europe.com/thread.html?topicId=13816838128&sid=1

Last I checked, their thread had over 11,000 posts and more than 570 pages, almost universally negative.

The forum itself is littered with locked posts and complaints, questions, and concerns. Valid concerns.

Are they even listening?

Thank you for reporting about this.

Posted by: merlinsghost | July 8, 2010 3:43 PM | Report abuse

I am 100% against this, and after playing for 5 years or so now, I have cancelled my account. I am a woman, and I once was stalked, which started in this game. I settled that (through many extreme means), but continued to play, because it was a fun release and I refused to let even that stop me from living my life.

However, I refuse to be part of a company that will allow - even enable - that same fate to occur to other people. So many are quick to say that that sort of thing is so rare, that people won't care enough about you to look you up. But it will happen - maybe only a few times...but isn't once too much?

As I said, I've cancelled my account. I will reinstate if they retract this policy, but as for now, I am standing up for myself and others.

Posted by: Tulanimurmur | July 8, 2010 3:45 PM | Report abuse

That is awesome. I had read about the Counterstrike player who got ganked in game, hunted down the player who did it, drove to his house, and stabbed him in the chest...

I bet having his name readily available would make that sort of thing easier... or just to call them up and yell at them. Phone #'s are easy to get from a name and simple information.

Oh hey, I can call up the Blizzard workers who post online to get off-hours support. Oh, they're only making users do this, and their employees will NOT be following this rule; as they;'re worried about the employees' privacy and safety?

So their employees privacy and safety are important to them; but customers privacy and safety are a non-issue that they'll violate on a whim... good to know.

Posted by: gekkobear1 | July 8, 2010 3:49 PM | Report abuse

I personally, and the people I play with who frequent the forums are tired of the lack of accountability that anonymous postings generate. We welcome this change.

Posted by: Fizzy2
============================================

Irony, thy name is....Fizzy2?

Posted by: Wrathchilde | July 8, 2010 3:54 PM | Report abuse

First of all, thank you very much for your thoughtful report.

When I signed up for this game it was for my child to be able to play. They very clearly promised to hold my personal information private.

Now they have changed the rules.

To receive technical support, my real name will be published.

In game, right now, anyone can get my real name by querying any character. Yes, even though I turned off RealID.

I am a female professional. I would never have allowed my child to start playing this game under these conditions.

The account is canceled and I am trying to get all the data deleted.

This seems to be an illegal, and definitely unethical action on Activision/Blizzard's part.

Posted by: Elga1 | July 8, 2010 4:05 PM | Report abuse

Again, just to make sure that both the "IN-FAVOR"s and the "NOT IN FAVOR"s understand.

THERE IS AN IN-GAME API CALL THAT CAN BE USED TO EXTRACT YOUR REAL-ID REGARDLESS OF FORUM USAGE.

This is NOT about the forum, at least not exclusively.

Regardless of your willingness to use the forum, you have already been violated. Your REAL-ID is already available, via LUA API calls, IN THE GAME. Now. Today. Not with Cataclysm or the new forum.

Right. Now.

Posted by: stratusaugustus | July 8, 2010 4:07 PM | Report abuse

Mr. Pegoraro - Thanks for the article. It's often difficult to find neutral, non-derisive commentary about the gaming community, so it's always a pleasure when one does.

One of the major issues with Real ID is that it was originally intended for uses other than public display, and the policies in place because of those other uses make it quite dangerous. On Facebook, you can easily change your name if you are concerned about your anonymity. However, to change your Real ID, you need to present Blizzard with 2 forms of government ID.

Additionally, you are aware when you create a Facebook account that you are creating a public profile. However, I created my Real ID 5 years ago, at a time when I was also inputting my credit card information. I trusted Blizzard with my personal information at that point and trusted them to keep that information private; at that time, there was no hint that 5 years later my name would be shared with the world. I greatly regret my trust in them, now.

Finally, you can, with little cost, simply abandon your Facebook and start another one. If I wanted to create a new Real ID under a false name, I would have to spend over $200 dollars in order to simply maintain the services I have access to now.

I'm not a forum troll. I was a person who enjoyed posting on the Blizzard forums. However, I'm also a female with an unusual name and a government job. Search for me and you'll find only me. And you'll find (among other things) my family's address, my place of employment, and my salary.

Blizzard's solution is that I can simply not use their forums if I want to protect my privacy. However, I don't understand why I should have to give up services that I pay for. John Smith can still safely use their forums. In fact, he can troll, he can post racist and sexist comments, he can act recklessly with little fear of reprisal. My name doesn't allow me the same protection. Only anonymity does.

Thanks, Washington Post/Mr. Pegoraro, for sharing your thoughts on this issue and thanks for letting me share my opinions in a safe and anonymous way.

Posted by: shmelse | July 8, 2010 4:17 PM | Report abuse

Maybe we'll finally figure out who Leeroy Jenkins is?

Truth be told, I can't think of a single reason why this will stop spamming. The spammers will just make up new accounts long enough to spam, get cut off, and create new user accounts.

Facebook is becoming less and less a place in which I want to hang out. It's bad enough as it's been. Where it's going is looking more and more unseemly with every "strategic partnership" they hammer out. I'm probably going to be voting with my feet and getting the heck out of Dodge.

Posted by: leicaman | July 8, 2010 4:18 PM | Report abuse

I would like to point the writer of this article, and its readers, to this very interesting "short history" of how we've arrived here, and what it means for gamers in general, and Blizzard specifically.

http://www.teamliquid.net/forum/viewmessage.php?topic_id=128252

Posted by: merlinsghost | July 8, 2010 4:45 PM | Report abuse

It's important to note that this change is not going to be made for some time for the WoW forums. The real thing that has bothered me about this whole ordeal is the reaction from the fan base. I can understand being upset and posting the fully viable reasons why this should not be allowed, but the reaction is nothing short of frantic tantrum.

The ignorance of at least the group of people that visit the forum regularly is unrivaled. I feel like I'm dealing with absolute children when I get on to give my advice and opinion about the issue and everyone else is going on about how, "Blizzard doesn't care at all" and "Corporate greed has ruined Blizzard forever". They want to try new things and they will reconsider it if it is not profitable in the long run.

Posted by: TimBaker1 | July 8, 2010 4:46 PM | Report abuse

WIN-WIN SITUATION
Although I don't play WoW myself, I here's my take on it. Most people I know who play this game seem to waste a lot of time and money playing it.

So I think this move will either:
1. have people quit game altogether to have more productive/active lifestyle
2. Actually help reduce the rudeness in forums and games.

From an objective perspective, this policy will show how people behave when their identities are on the line. (It'll be good for psychology studies or something)

Posted by: jaiko86 | July 8, 2010 4:53 PM | Report abuse

Funny seeing people so upset

They are upset at not being able to blast people behind the wall of secrecy

Now they must be polite

Posted by: Bious | July 8, 2010 4:59 PM | Report abuse

@ Bious

You seem to not have read or understood anything here. This has nothing to do with posting politely on forums. This is about Activision/Blizzard revealing my personal information to the world, after promising to keep it confidential.

Right now, my name can appear to anyone on the game. That is what RealID does right now. RealID does this even though it is supposed to be optional. Even though I turned it OFF.

Posted by: Elga1 | July 8, 2010 5:14 PM | Report abuse

I find it funny that people think that just because someone's real name is displayed, it means that they are going to magically be "nicer". Guess what, geniuses? If you don't care that your real name is displayed, neither will they!

Also, it's laughable that somehow there will be more "accountability" involved when using your real name. Who, exactly, will be holding people accountable for their posts, and how will it be done?

Posted by: gamz247 | July 8, 2010 5:14 PM | Report abuse

I play WoW....or did until they announced the requirement for using your "real id" in the forums.

Of course I would never post my real name in a forum for a game I play purely for fantasy. I do not believe the reason for this change is actually to stop trolls (who are posters who intentionally write things to be offensive and get a rise out of others), I believe it is to enhance their ability to market things to us, or to sell us as a market. I also believe it has a serious potential for abuse. Those very trolls that Activision (which owns Blizzard/WoW) claims to be targeting will have the opportunity to target directly anyone posting to the forums, simply by googling their name.

Dang I'm gonna miss that game.

Posted by: bjam | July 8, 2010 5:16 PM | Report abuse

As others have stated here, the player base that gave their personal information over six years ago gave it under the tos/eula that their private information would not be sold, compromised, shared, integrated with any third parties. This has changed, it does not just extend to the forums, which in itself is enough to be disgusting with a whole list of reasons, but it also extends into the game right now as a marketed/published optin in when it is in fact an non-published OPT OUT via manually enabling parental controls. It has been proven to be compromised by add ons and in all sense of the definition this game client is now SPYWARE. It does not matter if you can kill big green bosses with it in a raid setting with your pals, it is in fact now SPYWARE.

I would also like to note this goes far beyond just our wow, gaming habits if you think for one second we won't be looking at our other uses of the internet, privacy settings and dealings with other companies going forward you are mistaken. This will affect more than just a hobby for some of us.

Posted by: ExWowPlayer | July 8, 2010 5:36 PM | Report abuse

When the first person is killed or maimed because some psycho tracks them down and burns down their house, the company will have committed suicide by liability.

You think flame wars are bad, wait until they are REAL flames.

Did anyone over there at Blizzard think to run this by Legal before they announced it?

Posted by: Jindokae | July 8, 2010 5:48 PM | Report abuse

Thank you for writing this article! It's encouraging to see actual press about this abhorrent blow to privacy online. My only question is how they can pull off this move if they are under the ESRB's privacy policy.

Regardless, I wonder when the first under-thirteen year old is going to give out Dad's real name. Probably right after this change. Bad parenting, yes, but it's going to happen and last time I checked, children can't consent to giving out their personal information (under ESRB's policy, they don't give out personal info unless given consent).

Incredibly unfortunate, WoW had such a thriving, real-life fanbase for my circle of friends - guess it's back to boring old Facebook (which even allows you to change your name; RealID does not)

Posted by: OneAngryMan | July 8, 2010 5:49 PM | Report abuse

I am beginning to think that having people comment under their real name is the only way to avoid the kind of "less than factual", political or whatever, comments. I used to think we could not get people to speak up without anonymity, but now I'm more fearful of those that hide behind it.

Mike K

Posted by: mikeva01 | July 8, 2010 9:20 PM | Report abuse

@ Jaiko86

In your first sentence, you say "Most people waste a lot of time and money on it."

WoW costs 50 CENTS a day. fitty. U got two qwatahs?

Allright, tell me what else in your life costs that much that, and can be so entertaining that you can sit for "a lot of time"? a two hour movie costs maybe 8-10 dollars. now THAT will add up fast if u see a movie once a week. Warcraft is way cheaper and lasts longer, too. Isnt that the definition of a good value?

It's only 50 cents a day . Multiplied by 10 million subscribers. Do the math here. 5 million a DAY in revenue. 10 MILLION people who are pretty much loyal fans. A captive audience.

Sure, some people are going to quit over this. I have not yet decided if i will myself. I may even end up with a "productive life" ( btw . who in hell are YOU to judge what is productive, satisfying, entertaining, worthwhile or wholesome?. For that matter, how do we know any of YOUR diversions are safe? I have to admit that I find smug self-righteousness to be really an ugly attribute in a human being. )

But none of what is out there disproves the basic objection, which is that Blizzard's subscribers are being betrayed by the company.

And a word on Forum Trolls. As much as I dislike idiocy, I can at least appreciate the art-form of a good troll. I consider it much like Graffitti. It's just part of the scenery. Sometimes it can even make me smile.

The "real ID will clean up the forums" arguement is about as well-thought-out as burning down the city to get rid of graffitti. Take a few minutes to ponder the analogy. People have to relocate. there's gonna be one helluva fire sale somewhere, and wherever you go, some jackass with a spray can is gonna tag a building anyways. It's just in human nature to be like that.

And none of this really matters because deep down it is not what the real arguement is about. Let me help you see what is REALLY going on here:

In wow-terms it's like this. Activision came along, saw all the potential customers and turned into a loot-ninja. And we are the loot.

That's what's going on. And as part of a self-policing culture of Gamers, we do not like loot ninjas. They become persona non grata pretty darned fast. We DO name names when people misbehave within our game culture. And we are doing it now, here, and everywhere else we can. Just to warn others what is going on. Cuz that's just how responsible people face down irresponsible ones.

Integrity. try it some time.

I love playing warcraft. I despise being treated like a commodity.

Until this activision thing, I could at least PRETEND Blizzard gave a rats ass about my gaming experience with their products. Maybe they even did.

Now i'm not so sure.

Posted by: notwildaboutmuch | July 9, 2010 4:00 AM | Report abuse

"Would you steer away from this post if you had to use your real name to leave a comment here?"
YES!

But then, I'm German, and the majority of people here haven't given up their privacy rights yet. It's a bit different in the US, afaics. But even in the States, more and more people become concerned about their online "fingerprint" revealing too much about their private life to everybody who is able to google, most importantly employers. And the experiment of one of the WoW administrators, who tried to make a point about the use of the real name not being a problem, is telling. Almost instantly after he exchanged his pseudonym for his real name, another WoW user published a shocking amount of personal information about the guy, including telephone number, data that had been easily available in the intertubes! The administrator retreated into the secure haven of anonymity again (even though the damage is done, the info is now "out there").

Many other internet users have had similar, unpleasant experiences that made them aware of the downsides of real name networking. Is it a surprise that the number of new facebook users is shrinking? No.

Posted by: Gray62 | July 9, 2010 4:08 AM | Report abuse

Also, let's not get fooled by the alleged reason the Blizzard management gave for the wideranging change. Their primary motive is to increase the profiling of their users in order to get more money from advertising, that should be obvious. A cooperation between facebook and Blizzard will result in more personal information about the users, and the businesses are willing to pay more for marketing that laserlike focusses on the target groups. This isn't really about the forums at all, which are a minor nuissance for the management, if at all. It's about money, always!

Posted by: Gray62 | July 9, 2010 4:15 AM | Report abuse

And then, the "accountability" argument is phony. At Blizzard, they already HAVE force everybody to reveal his real ID because of the obligatory payment information the user has to submit! And if they want to get trolls out of their forum, the contract gives them the right to simply kick the user out. This is a severe punishment for a WoW user who has spend considerable time, effort and money into building up his fantasy character!

So, Blizzard already has the means to keep their forum clean. they know the identity of their users. That other WoW users don't necessarily know who is behind a pseudonym has nothing to do with this. A RealID requirement, forcing users to reveal their identity to all the public, would only lead to cyberstalking and harrassments. Users have nothing to gain from this, but being able to connect Blizzard IDs to facebook IDs would lead to both companies making more money from advertising. And that's behind this move, nothing else!

Posted by: Gray62 | July 9, 2010 4:31 AM | Report abuse

As a female gamer, I'm absolutely appalled that Blizzard has introduced this idea. I've enjoyed their game for years - I play with my family & friends, but when it became apparent by last night that they have no intention of reconsidering this, I canceled my account. My children have done likewise.

Blizzard claims this will stop trolling. Instead, it will give trolls access to our real names - full names - and instant google results. As of now, they can insult our in game choices, & maybe our grammar. What happens next? Our homes, families, careers are to become troll bait?

What about female posters, or otherwise vulnerable posters? (children, minorities, people with alternate lifestyles) I have a one of a kind name - I'm easy to find. I'm also a multi-published author. I have no wish to have my work brought into gaming discussions.

Beyond the gaming community, this is a privacy issue. Blizzard has many, better options for controlling bad behavior on their message boards. Forcing us to use our real names in order to post on customer service shouldn't be an option. (either post there & get an immediate reply, or call & wait on hold for a VERY long time - or submit an in game ticket & wait for hours.) I interrupted someone hacking into my sister's account, and was able to get assistance *only* because of the online forums.

This breach of privacy and trust indicates a complete lack of respect for their customers, and it's completely unacceptable.

Posted by: ellyllon | July 9, 2010 6:21 AM | Report abuse

The scary thing about this isn't necessarily getting into fights with some dude and thinking he might come track you down. The fact of the matter is, the forums are viewable to EVERYONE. That's right, the whole internet. I don't think I need to remind people of the cesspit of the 'net known as the /b forums on 4chan.

You don't think one day some /b/**** (their term, not mine) is going to just go to the WoW forums, copy as many names as possible, and start posting them on the 4chan boards? Does no one remember what happened to Youtube when these people got bored?

And those are just some of the depraved people on the internet. All it will take is some kid on their parent's account to post something telling of their age ("I'm excited for my first day of high school!" or something similar) and suddenly, it's pedophile city. These people won't even have to track down kids individually anymore! Just go to the off-topic forums, look for a post that is blatantly written by an underage kid, and google his name.

Listen, I did a search of my name at howmanyofme.com, and guess what? Only one of me in the country, if the site is to be believed. So if I were to ever use the forums (which I *won't* if they go through with this insane move), that post is linked to me, period. Now, people in real life see who I am online, and people who know me online see who I am in real life.

And, when this comes out, it's not like people can call Activision out on it, since that would require posting in the forums.

I love WoW. I really do, it's a great place to hang out with RL friends, a fun game, and a very useful time waster when I've got nothing better to do. But you know what? I don't know if I can support a company that condones this kind of thing. I've tentatively canceled my sub, may re-up it, may not. I honestly hope that this will never go through.

It's not about anonymity. If someone were to ask me if I play WoW, I'd say yes. No shame, it's a legitimate form of entertainment as far as I'm concerned. But the fact that my information will be given out by someone else is just insane, as far as I'm concerned.

Not to be all gloom and doom, but just watch. Within the first month or two, we're going to see a kidnapping, assault, rape or murder that will be connected back to RealID. The harassments will be less time than that. Whether Activision Blizzard realizes this and takes back their decision now or after it happens will be the thing to look out for.

Posted by: Awayfromlife | July 9, 2010 11:36 AM | Report abuse

I am a female gamer who is outraged by the new policy of RealID. When Blizzard first announced that they would be implementing the option to use RealID, it was just that – an option. You had the choice. Now, Blizzard announces RealID is mandatory? Not only do I have a WoW account, but my husband and 2 sons also have accounts (one son being a minor). We have been playing WoW for 4-5 years between all of us. I think it is unsafe to have such information displayed on the internet, for underage players, women, for all. I do not subscribe to a facebook-type of site for a reason, I like my privacy and don’t want my life published on the internet. Also, how does this affect my life outside of WoW? My WoW life is private, now I have to worry about neighbors or my employment having access to my info.? And, of course the rumors are already flying around of the possibility that RealID will eventually cross over to having your real name displayed while playing in-game. I hope this does not happen. Both of my sons have cancelled their accounts, my husband stated he is cancelling his account today and I am hanging on by a thread. Between all the members in my family, we have been playing around 4-5 years. I was so excited about the upcoming expansion to the game “Cataclysm” coming out at the end of this year. But, you know what, it is not worth waiting for. Goodbye Blizzard and World of Warcraft!

Posted by: Misty4U | July 9, 2010 12:15 PM | Report abuse

I have been considering playing WoW for a few weeks now but put off my decision because of vacation plans. After reading this and seeing all of the disgruntled users I'm not so sure I want to make the effort to join now.

As a single woman I value my privacy too much to want strangers looking up information about me. Not to mention I have an abusive ex-husband who doesn't need to find me. I wonder if they even considered that in making this decision. Probably not.

Posted by: spg2dd | July 9, 2010 1:24 PM | Report abuse

about 30 min ago or so, Mike Morhaim, ceo and cofounder of blizzard announced that they are no longer going to make fourm users post under there real names.
Its a great dession, and I am not alone in being totaly shocked that they listed to the gamers, I guess this means we all have to eat some crow and admit that maybe they do actuall listen to us.
Thanks guys.

Posted by: krazystring | July 9, 2010 1:30 PM | Report abuse

Blizzard Admits Real ID is a Privacy Issue: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HlRAsYHuQi0

Posted by: TiffanyBliss | July 9, 2010 1:59 PM | Report abuse

If you're honest & true to yourself shouldn't be any worries, right? Privacy, schmivacy...There aint no such animal anymore.

Posted by: LieToMe | July 9, 2010 3:09 PM | Report abuse

And ~72 hours later, the idea goes up in smoke. I think that's the fastest I've ever seen Blizz respond to a situation like this.

Posted by: Awayfromlife | July 9, 2010 3:12 PM | Report abuse

I don't do WoW and not much Blizzard, but I believe it is fundamentally misguided and inappropriate to associate and reveal real-world identities in any virtual reality.

I draw a major distinction between virtual realities, which I consider fantasy and other online communication environments, such as this (come on, be open-minded LOL), Facebook, blog, forum, chat, etc.

If it is real-world related, it is reasonable for the the host, in order to establish the tenor of communication, to chose whether or not anonymity is allowed, encouraged or even required, as long as the policy is clearly stated, explicitly agreed to and consistently enforced.

It should always be illegal to reveal real-world identity without specific, opt-in consent. Under current privacy laws, is it or isn't it? Once I thought I knew, but now I'm not sure any more.

Posted by: guy_on_line | July 9, 2010 5:04 PM | Report abuse

OK, so we won a major battle. The question is : Will Activision continue its' plan to create a Universal User ID that encompasses the entire battle.net Gamer universe, Facebook, and whatever other databases Activision buys/signs up with, or not?

I am absolutely convinced that the ultimate goal is in that direction, and they will not give up the plan; the cash incentive is too great to let a triffling thing like ethics stop them

Posted by: notwildaboutmuch | July 10, 2010 5:11 PM | Report abuse

Boggles the mind. All these brave Americans who don't have the guts to sign their name to their opinion.

bill wald

Posted by: billwald | July 10, 2010 9:17 PM | Report abuse

@billwald.

I signed my name, and gave them my account # and home phone... when I wrote the Comapny HQ directly. I offered to explain to them personally what was wrong, why it was wrong, and how it was going to affect them socially, financially, and legaly.

Do I sign my name to an on-line document? nope.

I'm against volunteering to be data-mined.

It's that whole pesky leave-me-alone thing again, yanno?

Then again, maybe you'd like to have your shopping, viewing, entertainment and feeding habits noted, analyzed & diagramed so that marketers can more effectively seperate YOU from your net worth?

In which case, your stance is perfectly reasonable.

Posted by: notwildaboutmuch | July 11, 2010 2:43 AM | Report abuse

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