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World of Warcraft and Starcraft trolls live to see another day after Blizzard drops plans to force users to give their real names in posts. The move seemed necessary, though, to prevent nasty privacy implications and to prevent ruining the fantasy experience.  (Source: South Park Studios/Comedy Central)
Amid threats of account cancellations company decides not to force users to post with their real names

Blizzard, maker of the world's most popular paid-subscription MMORPG (World of Warcraft), and one of the most successful real time strategy franchises, Starcraft, shocked its millions customers this week when it announced plans to force them to use their real world names on its message boards.

The company claimed the move was necessary to promote a "positive" atmosphere and prevent internet trolling -- the time honored tradition of making a fool of yourself and others via rude remarks on the extranet.

Users were not happy.  First and foremost they complained that Blizzard -- a leader in private fantasy entertainment -- was ruining both the privacy and fantasy that draws many to a game like WoW.  Further, they said that the use of real world names could create many hostile situations from workplace discrimination to stalking of WoW's large female contingent.

Blizzard didn't have much helpful to say on these issues.  Initially it merely warned customers "the message boards are optional".  That only further provoked the anger of the hundreds of thousands of active users that frequent the company's message boards.

Faced with a growing list of threats of account cancellations, Blizzard finally saw the writing on the wall and gave up its burning crusade against forum trolls.  In a forum post its CEO Mike Morhaime writes:

0. Regarding real names in forums 07/09/2010 09:47:41 AM PDT
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 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 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://us.blizzard.com/en-us/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 

The move seems a smart one for Blizzard.  After all, stopping trolling at the cost of ruining the company's fantasy gaming experience and opening itself up to potential lawsuits from privacy implications seemed like a horrible idea for the company.  It's good that at least one company can see the writing on the wall -- or perhaps the forum.




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