Four Lessons From Blizzard's Real ID Snafu

By  |  Friday, July 9, 2010 at 6:54 pm

Blizzard became the target of its own flame war after deeming that its forums would soon require the use of real life names. The Battle.net community backlash forced Blizzard to backpedal, removing the Real ID requirement in forums for World of Warcraft and Starcraft II. However, Blizzard head Mike Morhaime’s language (“we’ve decided at this time”) leaves the idea on the table. Here are some things Blizzard should keep in mind if it wants to try Real ID in its forums ever again:

Anonymous doesn’t always mean “troll”

Maybe Blizzard didn’t consider the legitimate reasons a person might choose to remain anonymous: Teachers may want to escape from their students during leisure time, government officials might not want to be stigmatized as avid World of Warcraft players and some people just aren’t comfortable being identified online. I likened Blizzard’s Real ID push to Facebook because both services have a desire for their users to embrace a single identity, whether it’s online or in real life. But right now, that’s not the way things are.

The forums are important, warts and all

In announcing the Battle.net forums’ switch to Real ID, Blizzard’s attitude seemed to be “don’t use it if you don’t like it.” The problem is that Battle.net forums serve as a kind of instant customer service, where people can reach out to the community and to Blizzard itself.  Changing the conditions on which that service is offered made people feel cheated. Which brings me to the next point:

Incentive works better than force

If Blizzard wants to shift people towards Real ID, it should take a page from Amazon, whose “Real Name Attribution” system for user reviews is not mandatory, but allows writers to collect badges for their work. Wouldn’t a reward system like that translate nicely to game built entirely on collecting loot?

Don’t test an angry mob

To prove a point, Blizzard forum moderator Bashiok revealed himself to be Micah Whipple, and outraged gamers immediately got to digging up as much embarrassing or otherwise personal information on him that they could. Whether the information is accurate or not is beside the point; this incident showed an ugly side to the Battle.net community that Blizzard was wise to pacify.

 
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13 Comments For This Post

  1. Sean Says:

    Maybe instead of viewing this as a Blizzard blunder, it should be looked at in a positive way. How many other companies actually take what the players say into consideration? Sure there are some, but most of them don't care. Blizzard listened, and Blizzard changed something because the players voiced their feelings on that outlet. Would they have lost people because of Real ID? Of course! They probably wouldn't feel it. changes, race changes, etc. They never used to do it, and after we spoke up, they made it happen. Sure they get money for it, but they should get money for it. It is their service. Blizzard has made me mad in the past, but this just shows me that they do care what we think. If anything, I trust them more now than ever.

  2. Sean Says:

    With as many players as they have, it would just be a drop in the bucket. They didn't have bad intentions, they gave us an outlet to post our feelings, and they changed something because we spoke up. Maybe we should be giving them props instead of viewing this as "we won, they lost". All of us won, as we get to be anon, and they proved that they do care about what we have to say. Sure, they are hard to reach and they are far from perfect, but they listen, they change, they deliver great products. This is exactly like the PCT's, faction

  3. Gray, Germany Says:

    Blah. Sry, but imho you miss the real points:

    1. A role playing game, where people assume a virtual identity, as a way of escapism from the real world, in order to live their fantasies, is the very last place where customers want to use their real names!

    2. Most customers ain’t dumb. They understand that the primary motive behind Activism/Blizzard’s Real ID idea is to make more money by increased profiling of their users and higher returns from advertising.

    3. Most forum users ain’t dumb. They know other, much more civilized forums, are able to draw comparisons, and understand very well that Blizzard could get rid of the troll problem by other means. After all, all it takes is to ban the user, whose ID is already known to the company because of the payment information! And forum users suspect that the only reason Blizzard is so inactive in cleaning up the forums is because they don’t want to lose any paying customer, no matter how annoying he/she is for the others.

    4. NEVER NEVER NEVER implement a new feature if most of your own developers, and/or all of the “Most Valuable Players” are against it! Trust their expertise, they represent the broad majority of users. Single handed decisions by the CEO, especially if he isn’t an enthusiastic and knowledgeable user of the product, are almost always a bad idea. The sole exception to this is Steve Jobs. But Bobby Kotick ain’t no Steve Jobs. Not even remotely.

  4. L1A Says:

    Blizzard shouldn't listen to the whiners. So they had 172 pages or whatever on that thread, that's noting compared to 11 million total player base. Only 0.0001% of WOW players post anything

  5. B2SS Says:

    Quick note to that: Anyone posting a percentage or statistic online is usually pulling it out of their rears.

  6. Elaine Mercer Says:

    The article writer does a good job of outlining how exactly a company should go breaching the private lives of users–people are more willing to give up privacy for a little bit of incentive than they are just willy nilly. In fact, research has shown that our obsessive-compulsive social nature works against us, and most people are willing to offer up all manner of personal information just for a continuum of identity that also gives people "points" or "badges" or something of insubstantial, virtual, or social currency.

  7. Shut up Says:

    It was actually something like 50,000 posts on 2500 pages in just under three days. And it's not whining. It's legitimate concern for personal privacy, and you're naive to think anything else.

  8. Stats! Says:

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

    This ran during the whole fiasco.

  9. payday loans Says:

    Blizzard has made me mad in the past, but this just shows me that they do care what we think. If anything, I trust them more now than ever.

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  11. payday loans Says:

    They never used to do it, and after we spoke up, they made it happen. Sure they get money for it, but they should get money for it. It is their service. Blizzard has made me mad in the past, but this just shows me that they do care what we think. If anything, I trust them more now than ever.

  12. refinish hardwood Says:

    After all, all it takes is to ban the user, whose ID is already known to the company because of the payment information! And forum users suspect that the only reason Blizzard is so inactive in cleaning up the forums is because they don't want to lose any paying customer, no matter how annoying he/she is for the others.

  13. Places to visit Says:

    With as many players as they have, it would just be a drop in the bucket. They didn't have bad intentions, they gave us an outlet to post our feelings, and they changed something because we spoke up. Maybe we should be giving them props instead of viewing this as "we won, they lost". All of us won, as we get to be anon, and they proved that they do care about what we have to say. Sure, they are hard to reach and they are far from perfect, but they listen, they change, they deliver great products.

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