Deciphering the Message

And the Internet was once again safe!  Blizzard backs down!  But did they?  Let’s take a look at the message and see what it’s really saying:

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.

So far we have a standard greeting and then the first sentence and I’m already going to step in…  Once again, RealID is being framed as a tool to make the game better, which we all know (or should know) by now isn’t the real reason for it.  They want to build a social network they can leverage for advertising, just like everyone else, and clean forums, if that even happened, was just a side effect they trotted out for PR.  If they really desired to make the forums a better place, there are at least a dozen things they could have done other than revealing real names.  This sentence exists to set up the wall they are about to blame you from.

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.

And there it is.  Your feedback, your concerns, our forums, and they’ve decided at this time not to use real names.  Notice the clear marketing speech.  Real Names are still on the table, because that is the ultimate goal.  Our feedback and concerns have simply caused them to adjust the time table.  They’ll come back to real names later, when they’ve thought of a less explosive way to work it in.

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.

Again with the framing.  This whole thing is about the forums, right?  Nothing else.  No social network, no advertising money, nothing.  All of this is for YOU, to make the forums awesome for YOU.  Please look at the right hand and ignore what the left one is doing.

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 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.

See?!?!  Forum stuff!  This was never about anything else, just forum stuff.  Oh, and we decided to implement a unique account ID system that doesn’t reveal your real name, which will give us all the accountability we needed over our current system of letting people troll with any character name they wanted and doesn’t let people find out where you live unless they want to spend a few days or weeks at it instead of 20 minutes.  To me, that someone can find my information on the Internet isn’t an issue, it’s out there, I know that.  To me, it’s a “heat of the moment thing”.  Say I go to the forum and read your post about “The most awesome hunter spec EVAR!!!!” and say, “You are being obtuse.  While this build certainly doesn’t suck, it is also clearly not the best build because it lacks…” and now you are pissed because I called you fat (I didn’t), I would like any revenge you suddenly plan about visiting my house and punching me in the face to show me who’s fat (again, no, obtuse, not obese) to take a while to execute, so that you have a change to realize (and maybe visit it might not be the best idea (because you are fat, and I’d kick your ass) rather than actually be in your car with the GPS telling you how to get to my house in less than half an hour.

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.

Our plans are separate… sure.  Except for the part where they are all tied to the same Real ID and the social network we are building.  The real point of this sentence cannot be fully understood until you read the rest of the paragraph.  So, shall we?

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.

Notice what is missing here?  I’ll give you a hint, it is the focus of this entire uproar.  That’s right, real names.  Yes, the forums won’t display your real name, but in order to use these other features of Real ID you have to have your real name revealed to others.  Maybe I’m an outlier, or maybe a lot of people are too new to MMOs and the concepts of RPGs, but I’ve been part of a community from EverQuest for going on eleven years now.  Originally it was all based around the game server and the IGN/Vault forum for that server, but around 8 years ago we moved off to a privately run message board due to some heavy handed over-moderation.  There are many people in this community I would call my friends.  I would happily use a system with them that allowed for cross-game and cross-realm chat and being able to see all each others characters and for a good sized chunk of those people I don’t know their real names (they could probably find mine, because, you know, my blog isn’t exactly a secret and my name is all over this thing).  We didn’t need real names to build friendships or a community.

Oh, and before I forget, see that last sentence?  Yeah, this isn’t over yet.  Real ID is going to continue to evolve and real names on the forums are being backed off of at this time.

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, ( ) 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.

And in closing, I want to point out that I almost believe him.  Until this move, I totally believed that Blizzard was run by and run for gamers.  They got us.  They delivered games only when they were ready.  But they aren’t alone anymore.  Activision owns them, and Bobby Kotick has said time and time again, he’s not in gaming for the games, he’s in gaming for the money.  The Blizzard that cared, to whom Every Voice Mattered, doesn’t exist anymore.  The honeymoon is over.  Knowing that Real ID is still there, that the social network and partnership with Facebook are still the plan, that real names are only off the table at this time, that’s why I don’t believe him.  This is just an appeal to the past, “Hey, remember when you loved us?  You should still love us!  We haven’t changed!  Except for some stuff, but I assure you, that stuff isn’t what matters.  What matters is that we make good games, and you love our games, and our games will keep being good… even if you have to jump through hoops and become a part of a giant marketing machine and social network to enjoy them.  We promise, it won’t hurt… most of you.  And hey, those are some good odds.”

For me, I’m still out.  Starcraft II pre-order cancelled.  Diablo III pre-order cancelled.  Cataclysm pre-order cancelled.  There is another shoe or two around here, and I’m going to wait for them to drop before I get back in bed with Blizzard.  That said, I’m still a fan of Blizzard at this time.


  1. Indeed, this isn’t over yet.

    They want to make a “social gaming platform”, not games. Huge difference, there.

    Then again, since I didn’t want SC2 once I heard LAN play was out, I’m not too fussed about their future plans for other games or cross platform stuff… at least, personally. The RealID thing is unhealthy for the industry, though, which is why I care.

  2. Slowly but surely these last 2 years, I’ve seen Blizzard going away from what I liked about them. This is just an additional straw (log?) but the proverbial camel of potential buyers still has a strong back.
    Mine? Oh, dead and buried. No SC2, and no D3 for me…

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