Blizzard Cancels Real ID Implementation on Forums

The last few days have been, frankly, not good for Blizzard. Today, they canceled their newly-announced plans to implement Real ID on the forums, a quick turnaround for the company.

In an effort to curb flamebaiting, trolling, hate speech, and generally insensitive comments and cursing, Blizzard announced on Tuesday via their forums that they would be implementing Real ID on the forums. Real ID would show a user’s real name instead of a chosen handle. As a result, Blizzard was hoping that Real ID would cause people to be more vigilant about what they write on the forums.

They wrote:

“… in the near future, anyone posting or replying to a post on official Blizzard forums will be doing so using their Real ID — that is, their real-life first and last name — with the option to also display the name of their primary in-game character alongside it. These changes will go into effect on all StarCraft II forums with the launch of the new community site prior to the July 27 release of the game, with the World of Warcraft site and forums following suit near the launch of Cataclysm. Certain classic forums, including the classic forums, will remain unchanged”

However, fans quickly backlashed angrily saying they feared that their personal information could be garnered from such a requirement. As an example, bloggers began posting personal information about Activision-Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick as well as a Blizzard forum moderator who posted his real name as an example of what Real ID would do.

The bloggers revealed information about Kotick and the forum moderator’s addresses, phone numbers, school history, employment history, family details, and more.

After the backlash, it seems Blizzard has decided to scrap the plans.

Speaking today on the Blizzard forums, Blizzard boss Mike Morhaime said, “When we launch the new StarCraft II forums that include these new features, you will be posting by your StarCraft II character name and 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 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 to add new and exciting functionality within our games for players who decide to use the feature.”

Was the backlash justified? After all, wouldn’t it be easy for people who object to simply not participate in the forums? Or better yet, to use other forums to discuss the same issues? Beyond that, the idea was to curb the types of comments that people would rarely leave if their actual name were attached to the comments. If people left comments and started threads that didn’t incite flamebaiting, trolling, and other undesirable actions, wouldn’t they not need to worry about their name being on a public forum? Furthermore, Bobby Kotick and even the forum moderator would be easy to find personal information about because there’s more details known about them from the start – for instance, everyone knows Bobby Kotick is the CEO, so public information is easier to come by. But John Smith? Well, there are thousands of John Smiths. How would anyone know which John Smith you were?

Is this just a result of people who are upset that they could no longer write public comments that are intended only to anger others? Or is it really a privacy concern?