Blizzard CEO Backpedals On Requiring Real Names In Forums

A few days ago Blizzard, maker of World of Warcraft and Starcraft, announced that it would begin requiring real names on its official forums in an effort to make the conversations more civil. The internet pointed out in a 2,000 page-long thread with over 40,000 replies, that this was a really stupid idea. Now Blizzard has decided not to do it.

Here’s the letter from their CEO:

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

[via Slashdot]

Comments

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  1. iParadox{InLove} says:

    Figured they’d back down sooner or later. Having most of your customer base crying can’t be good for business.

    • the Persistent Sound of Sensationalism says:

      I’m sure it was all “for the alliance”. Now, since the rollout of RealID I’ve been able to play both factions, and there are trolls on both side, however, when I’m playing Alliance I read the most inane, childish, and disgusting trolling in trade chat. When I play horde, those same people get shouted down and order is restored to the trade chat. I started blocking Alliance trade chat because within a week I was tired of the “anal” jokes and “murlock movie title” game.

      Too many kids play my game, damnit. Get off my server!
      /elitist rant

      • Oranges w/ Cheese says:

        Horde is better :)

        • the Persistent Sound of Sensationalism says:

          I agree. The horde symbol may be my next tattoo. I’m still considering the long-term consequences of a tattoo based on game art though.

          When our guild started getting more powerful, me and a group of guildies decided to go to Darkshore and wreak havoc, until our guild leader pointed out that it would make us as obnoxious as the Alliance and give our guild a bad name.

      • failurate says:

        Jesus could walk on water, but Chuck Norris can swim through land!

        /Barrens

      • TheGreySpectre says:

        I think it is server dependent, I switched from an alliance server that did not do that do a horde server where the anal jokes happen all the time.

        Glad to here they changed this. I had canceled my because this change.

      • whogots is "not computer knowledgeable" says:

        I would, no foolin’, pay a slightly higher MRC if I could take my guild to a literate-adult server. Here’s my fantasy: you pass a literacy test to get on, you don’t name your characters things like Thisismypally, you don’t put Chuck Norris spam in trade, and being ignored by more than 20 people in an hour gets you permanently banned from the server.

  2. BigFoot_Pete says:

    Someone will bash the company for flip flopping, but I think you have to admire the fact that Blizzard heard the outrage from its fan base and changed its policy. They are trying to improve things for the non 13 year-old flame trolls, and they method they picked was error laden.

    • SabreDC says:

      Except he practically bashed the customers in the letter. By starting it with “We want to make the forums a better place”, it implies that disagreeing means that you DON’T want the forums to be a better place. I don’t care either way: I don’t play any Blizzard games or anything. I just hate it when companies play the weasel words.

      • the Persistent Sound of Sensationalism says:

        I think he’s just pointing out the conundrum which is anonymous forums for real issues. Players behave badly when there is no immediate consequence for their mischief, and it’s annoying to those who go there looking to improve their gaming experience.

        Hmmm… maybe I should solicit a PR job with Blizzard.

      • whogots is "not computer knowledgeable" says:

        I don’t think that’s the case here. He goes on from there to list several more run-of-the-mill forum improvements that will still go forward, so I think that sentence is just there to defend the original idea and/or say that they are still committed to improving their godawful forums.

        As a WoW player, I am actually really pleased by this letter. I fully expected them to go forward with their stupid plan, which would have actually made the forums far worse by chasing every respectable adult and every supervised child out of the forums, leaving the place to be overrun by feral sham-homeschooled prepubescent males. They’re not doing that, and yet they’re not going to stand by the status quo, either.

        So while they did lose a boatload of credibility with me for publishing such a shockingly ignorant plan in the first place, bully for them admitting error and finding a way forward.

  3. FreshPorcupineSalad says:

    How did they think this would turn out? Were they honestly not expecting all of the backlash? I can’t imagine.

  4. Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

    At least there’s a company that listens to its users.

    Sure, we all knew it was a bad idea, and thought Blizzard was misguided to make this decision. But, we can all acknowledge that corporate big wigs are never, ever going to truly understand those of us down in the trenches, buying and living with their products. But, what we need more of is corporate big wigs that KNOW they will never truly understand us, and because of that actually listen to us.

    A company that gives us what we want rather than telling us what we want is a good thing.

    • duxup says:

      I’m always a bit suspicious of these things. I’ve seen customer service related surveys that indicate that customers who have a problem with a product or service but have the problem resolved to their satisfaction quickly often exhibit more loyalty than those with no problems at all. I sometimes wonder if such quick policy changes are a ploy of some kind.

      However, in this case the initial decision is so stupid I’m not sure you’d choose this route for such a ploy.

  5. Harmodios says:

    Yeah, I think I heard something about this. The pale-faced over-weight nerds have been hyper-ventilating about like their life depended on it. Ah well, at least they had exercise.

    • Sillyheart says:

      Freckle faced, healthy weight, and work out for 60-90 minutes a day. :) Then I get to facerolling.

    • Genocidicbunny says:

      If you dont realize the implications of this, you need to get off the internet. Better yet, just don’t reproduce.

      Giving up anonymity, introducing a real potential for real life abuse is a real issue with this. Someone pointed out that 4chan would have had a field day with this, and I believe it. I have seen lives ruined by a bunch of malignant 4chan /b/tards. This would have practically removed all the work for them.

    • DorsalRootGanglion says:

      Behold, one of the number one reasons we don’t want RealID to go forward. The perception of gamers is so negative that even a casual association could lead to our being, at best, made fun of and at worst, being discriminated against. You don’t think a boss in this job market might decide that having an active gamer in the company is a bad thing, since the perception is that gamers are lazy and stupid?

    • BarbiCat says:

      Are you seriously ignorant as to how badly this could affect female players? Or how much information you could find out about a person that you don’t like on the forums? Or is this a case of “It won’t affect me, so who cares who it WILL affect!”?

      Those of us with incredibly unique names would be very easy to find. I’ve had enough weirdos online harass me because I’m female, I don’t want them to be able to track me down outside the game.

    • fomenting fermentation says:

      Spoken like a true troll! I commend you sir.

  6. aloria says:

    Thank God. Really, if you are concerned about abusive conversations on forums, you ramp up your moderation staff and get more strict on clamping down on rulebreakers. Forcing everyone to give up their privacy is an incredibly lazy and punitive way to do things.

    I have had problems with Internet->IRL harassment before. There aren’t a lot of people in this country with my name, and I don’t need to open myself up to some unstable WoW player hunting me down because I accidentally looted a bind-on-pickup item in group.

    • AngryK9 says:

      So your name really is Indiana Jones? ;)

    • whogots is "not computer knowledgeable" says:

      My name’s rare too — there are three of me in the U.S., one of whom is a marathon-running and surely non-MMO-playing middle-aged mom in Arizona.

      I rarely post in the forums to begin with, but considering how easy I am to identify, I immediately decided that I would simply never, ever, ever post in the forums again if this happened. Blizzard’s stupid plan was so fantastically out of bounds that I just accepted it and went on, following the news but not bothering to raise my own fuss.

    • DigitalShawn says:

      Ninja.

    • sleze69 says:

      Clearly a good way to control trolls without that banhammer is to just threaten to make all of THEIR posts switch to their real names after a certain number of warnings.

  7. duxup says:

    How the heck do you think this is a good idea from the start? Not just PR but the logistics and implications of it all. WTF?

  8. ArtfulDodger says:

    If Blizzard had gone ahead and implemented the association of real names with forum posts, they could have potentially opened themselves up to a lot of liability. There has already been a case where a crazy person tracked down someone who flamed them on the Internet and tried to kill them. Divulging someone’s real name is a big step towards being able to track someone down. Believe me…some people can really hold a grudge in WoW… I’d like to keep the online crazies behind the monitor screen, thank you very much.

  9. FrugalFreak says:

    “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.”

    Sounds to me like

    ” we want to be able to identify and track less desirable players. We want to censor our forums so we can keep our halo”

    • erinpac says:

      They can already identify them without making them visible to everyone else. Blues have pointed out before that they can see X, Y, Z toons in the same name posting and such.

      • SanDiegoDude says:

        Yea, I think it was most likely an honest attempt to make the forums a friendlier place (seriously, it’s like a slummy bar on those WoW forums, not for the faint of heart), but this really isn’t the proper way to do it.

        The funny thing is, just implementing first names would have helped drive civility without causing such an identity crisis… The rush of trolling on the internet is the total disconnect from your real life. If you were posting even with just your first name (and addressed as such in future posts) you’re a whole lot less likely to troll/flame.

    • Groanan says:

      I think the RealID system they tried to implement on the forums was an attempt by the big-wigs at Activision / Blizzard to tap into the Facebook Farmville/Mobwars/Yoville market.

      They want connectivity so great between the game / forums / and Facebook so as to let everyone you know know what you are doing in the World of Warcraft, as an advertisement.

      Most new players quit before level 10, knowing that your real-life acquaintances are doing better than you in the game works to entice people to push harder and keep playing.

  10. Bernardo says:

    I was a fan of this. To me it could lead to more of a community feeling and cut down on the people who are just assholes and sarcastic just because they can hide. I mean yea, this COULD lead to abuse, but if someone wanted to really track you down on the internet your only safe by not logging on. And besides the whole thingwas bein overblown. It wasnt all the forums getting the offical name change it was the new ones. You dont want it you dont do it. I have played these games for years and never once posted on the forums and I never really wanted to because of the way people behaved. Now for the sarcastic people who “live” on the message boards and want to “troll” people this is a bad thing. But for them, maybe going outside and learning to be a real life human instead of trolling people on the forums and perfecting roleplaying as a night elf hunter wouldnt be such a bad thing.

    btw I do really play WOW and starcraft. Level 80 War in full ICC gear. I still manage to work a full times job with plenty of OT and date regularly before we start to go overboard here on bashing wow players for being lifeless. Its annoying reading wow stories on here and seeing the comments turn that way.

    • erinpac says:

      The thing is, many of the trolls just didn’t care if you actually read the forums.
      Instead, you were losing those people gainfully employed.

    • Fineous K. Douchenstein says:

      I hold a job (used to be two jobs), have a social life, spend lots of time with my girlfriend, and still manage to have a fully-geared level 80 Paladin with full ICC gear for tanking and healing. A couple hours of game time with friends for a couple nights each week isn’t overdoing it.

    • DigitalShawn says:

      I have a lvl 80 Hunter in full t1.

  11. Grimchord says:

    As someone who plays World of Warcraft, this relieves me greatly. I couldn’t fathom why they thought this was a great idea in the first place. I get what they were trying to do, but this was the wrong way to do it.

  12. oldtaku says:

    You’ll notice that while it’s now voluntary, using the RealID is tied to having access to several very attractive features, and I’m am quite sure that you will have the option not to receive in-game communications from people not using it (if you’re using it), which would be quite attractive for shutting gold spammers up. Most people will just do it because they’ll happily trade convenience for privacy.

    So I think this is where they wanted to be originally. Push the ridiculous option, then pretend to back down and settle for what you really wanted.

  13. WinHac says:

    Blizard already knows your real name. I don’t see the point having it listed in the forum.

  14. HeyApples says:

    How dumb is Blizzard to try and pull this in the first place. On other forums I’ve seen a single name used to find out phone numbers, addresses, and even places of employment for those posting. Can you imagine the low-caliber scum of WoW trolling people with this information?

  15. GameHen says:

    I been browsing the comment threads on some of the various articles about this. About every 5 comments or so there was someone saying that they and their family members had already canceled their accounts over this. (Note for non-WOW players: accounts can be reinstated after cancellation) You know that for every 1 person that did this and commented about it, there were another 20 that did it but said nothing.

    I have to wonder if this backpedaling has to do with an unusually large bump in account cancellations. I have a suspicion that the retraction is much more related to a realized loss in revenue which was snowballing over time than a case of “we’re listening to you”.

    • Paladingo says:

      There was an enormous rise in account cancellations. Everyone in my guild canceled. We were 99% sure Blizz would change their minds and we could re-institute our accounts before the next billing cycle (we could keep playing despite the cancellations), but if not we were ready to take our business elsewhere.

      We had a guild member stalked and threatened (before RealID even existed) and it was an awful experience. 50% of our guild is female so we had people able to explain really clearly why this was such an unsafe idea, and telling people just to not use some of the services they pay for is like telling women that they shouldn’t ever wear dresses because they might get assaulted. Cracking down on people who are doing the wrong is the right move.

      • Bernardo says:

        I’m gonna bet your all or most of you are gonna come back either way. There isnt anotehr MMO as good as WoW. Im not being a fanboy, I’ve tried the others, and WoW is just the best buy for your buck. They have you. Just relax, and enjoy people calling you by your real name again. Feels almost normal doesnt it?

    • Cantras says:

      The account cancellation page was actually so overloaded that it took me about 4 tries to get it in. It couldn’t handle anything in the “why are you quitting” form, often.

  16. Greely says:

    Wow. Take anonymous out of the internet and people freak out.

    How telling.

    • GameHen says:

      Of what? That people are keenly aware that there are dangerous people among the millions that lurk on the web? That a large portion of the greater online community don’t blindly submit to companies that expose them to risk? That not everyone is a naive sheep willing to trade their personal security for a few hours of entertainment?

    • DorsalRootGanglion says:

      I stand by what I say on those forums. Problem is that my coworkers and bosses might dislike that I am a gamer (and I’m pretty unique in name). Or my students might find out and harass me. Or, because I’m female, I could say something about the game and get stalked.

      The men in these games are often completely crazy in the bad, I’m afraid, way.

  17. jaya9581 says:

    I’m a 5+ year WoW player (4 lvl 80s, 3 of them in full ICC gear, and yes I have a real life too) and while I wouldn’t cancel my account over this, I was not happy. I’m not a big user of the WoW forums, I mostly just read them and don’t post. When I do, I’m not too big a baby to post from my main. All this change would have done is ensure that I never used the forums again. I’m glad Mike Morhaime did a 180; someone is listening to us!

  18. Slave For Turtles says:

    I’d like to offer a correction. You have “2,000 page-long thread with over 40,000 replies,” but in reality it was a teensy bit under 50,000 replies, that being some 2,500 pages.

    Source: http://static.bwerp.net/~adam/2010/07/08/

  19. ossuary says:

    The real name issue was a baaaaad call. Especially when dealing with that demographic (I am one of so I don’t mean anything bad by it).

  20. Levk says:

    But there is no way to prove that is your real name for all you guys know my name is Clark Kent or Donna Troy how would they even verify its the real name >

  21. TTFK says:

    Until they make this statement official by removing the “Real ID required in the forums” out of the TOS and Privacy Policy, I will not believe them.

  22. smo0 says:

    When I saw the Real ID thing I was like “Oh shit!” because I don’t even use my last name on social networking or any sites actually – I use my first and middle name.. so I was kind of bothered when I saw it pop.

    I was REALLY bothered when I realized – when you look at your FRIENDS OF FRIENDS you can see THEIR first and last names which would reverse apply if they were looking at me.

    The things on the forums just made me laugh – I only WISH they had “back-billed” it so I could see the names of all of the “level 1″ character trolls (no pun) who flame people on the boards….

    If you’re gonna do, do it RITE!

    I think REAL ID’s on the forums would cut down on the trolls. (AGAIN no pun, hehe)

  23. smo0 says:

    Oh and I have 4 level 80s (DK, Shammy, Pally and Warlock) in full ICC (some heroic) gear, a 71 hunter and a 72 rogue – I have a FT job, a boyfriend and a life… it’s 110 degrees outside, I’m not leaving my house otherwise!
    It’s not an addiction, IT’S A CALLING!

    I have fun, I play with friends, it’s more of a social thing with me…. besides… do you know how EASY it is to roll an 80 these days? seriously… a week… I have friends spam run me through dungeons til 70ish (Northrend crap) then do the random queue all the way to 80…..

    BOA’S also win.