Page last updated at 21:24 GMT, Friday, 9 July 2010 22:24 UK

Blizzard backs down over gamers using real names

By Maggie Shiels
Technology reporter, BBC News, Silicon Valley

WoW artwork, Blizzard
World of Warcraft has more than 11 million monthly subscribers

Following a barrage of criticism, World of Warcraft publisher Blizzard has backed down on the need for gamers to use their real names on its forums.

The firm's about-face comes three days after saying it would introduce the feature as part of its Real ID product.

Blizzard said the intention was to cut down on "flame wars" and heated online arguments started to cause trouble.

Within 24 hours of announcing the plan, Blizzard received more than 1,000 comments, mostly critical.

Hours before the change of heart, there were around 50,000 comments stretching over some 2,500 pages.

"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," Mike Morhaime, founder and chief executive of Blizzard wrote in an open letter on the company's forum page.

"As a result of those discussions, we've decided at this time that real names will not be needed for posting on official Blizzard forums."

REAL ID will still go ahead without the real names requirement and allow users to vote comments on the forum for World of Warcraft and Starcraft II up or down with low-rated posts slowly disappearing.

'Huge triumph'

The move has been described as a common sense one by those that cover the industry.

"Blizzard, like many firms, has been trying to figure out how to deal with the hateful flames that anonymous persons post by their thousands but getting gamers to use real identities wasn't the solution," said Dean Takahashi, lead writer with GamesBeat.com, an offshoot of the news website VentureBeat.

Screenshot from World of Warcraft, Blizzard
Critics of the real names plan feared it would chill free speech

"There is something to be said for being able to post anonymous comments especially when you want to say something truthfully but can't because you are worried about it say affecting your employment position or because of the backlash you might get," he told BBC News.

The Centre for Democracy and Technology called it a "huge triumph for gamers" given concern that the new policy could lead to identity theft, stalking, real-life harassment and encroach on privacy.

"Once again we have seen how a motivated group of users can take back their privacy by using the power of the internet to share a common concern, amplify the message and demand corporate action," said Sean Brooks, programme associate for the Centre.

Those very users who hit out at the move to end anonymity were just as quick to applaud Blizzard for its volte face.

Comments on the company's forum page ranged from "thanks for listening to us. We really appreciated the U-turn on Real ID forums" to simply "win".

One player who goes by the moniker Zwip, Ragnaros was more prosaic in their assessment of the publisher's move and wrote "elitism is the fall of man, To proclaim that you are a scrub is the realisation of true skill, for forever you are improving".



Print Sponsor


SEE ALSO
Row over gamers' true identities
08 Jul 10 |  Technology
Blizzard games get social extras
06 May 10 |  Technology
Video gamers accused of match fix
16 Apr 10 |  Technology
Playing together and staying together
09 Jul 09 |  Technology
Closed worlds for private gamers
04 Dec 09 |  Technology
Sam Raimi to direct Warcraft film
23 Jul 09 |  Entertainment

RELATED INTERNET LINKS
The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites


FEATURES, VIEWS, ANALYSIS
Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit

BBC navigation

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.

Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific