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Blizzard Brings Accountability to Internet Forums (Updated!)

Tuesday on Blizzard’s Battle.net forums, Blizzard announced a significant change coming to all official Blizzard forums that’s already making waves with the community.  The Battle.net Real ID feature recently implemented ties a user’s first and last name to their Battle.net account.  Launching with the revamped Battle.net 2.0, posts on Blizzard’s forums will be accompanied by the user’s first and last name.

The reason for such a drastic change?  Blizzard says:

“The official forums have always been a great place to discuss the latest info on our games, offer ideas and suggestions, and share experiences with other players — however, the forums have also earned a reputation as a place where flame wars, trolling, and other unpleasantness run wild. Removing the veil of anonymity typical to online dialogue will contribute to a more positive forum environment, promote constructive conversations, and connect the Blizzard community in ways they haven’t been connected before. With this change, you’ll see blue posters (i.e. Blizzard employees) posting by their real first and last names on our forums as well.”

The forum post above on Blizzard’s Battle.net forums has grown to 47 pages in length with reactions ranging from disbelief and outrage to indifference and support.  Some gamers have concerns about harassment, identity theft, and safety, many of which are targeted to female gamers and minors.  Parents will be able to disable Blizzard’s Real ID identifiers in the control panel of an account but doing so will eliminate the ability to post on Blizzard’s forums.

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Blizzard concludes:

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

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

Do you think Blizzard is taking internet accountability too far?  Are you supportive of their vision for a more accountable internet?  You can read the whole post on Blizzard’s forums.  Let us know what you think in the comments.

[Battle.net via TeamLiquid]

Updated: It looks like we’re all on Punk’d because as of Friday Blizzard announced due to overwhelmingly negative response, they’re backing down and real names will not be displayed on official forums.  Here’s the official response:

“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 conversation threading, the ability to rate posts up or down, improved search functionality, and more. However, when we launch the new StarCraft II forums that include these new features, you will be posting by your StarCraft II 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://eu.blizzard.com/en-gb/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”


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