Blizzard Real ID system sparks controversy

World of Warcraft maker limiting forum posting, cross-game chat, other Battle.net features to those who sign up using their real names; user outcry thread tops 30,000 posts.

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Blizzard boasts one of the largest and most engaged user communities of any developer in the world. The benefits of such a following are obvious, but the downside becomes similarly stark when the company runs afoul of its user base.

Grizzled space marine, real name: Quincy Featherbottom.
Grizzled space marine, real name: Quincy Featherbottom.

The company yesterday unveiled its new Real ID system, a service that allows friends to easily follow each other's activities in Blizzard games like World of Warcraft. It also introduces cross-game chat and social networking features that allow users to see not just their friends, but also their friends' friends.

However, Blizzard is requiring users to register for the service with their real names. And beginning with the Starcraft II message boards this month, the developer is changing its forums to require users to post under their Real ID names. Blizzard fans expressing privacy concerns--as well as those dismissing such worries--have flocked to the company's still-anonymous official forums, combining to produce more than 30,000 messages in a 1,500-pages-long thread.

"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," a Blizzard representative posted in a separate thread explaining the changes. "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."

While the Starcraft II forums will undergo the switch to Real ID this month, other Blizzard forums will have some time before the switchover. The World of Warcraft forums are expected to require Real ID around the time of the Cataclysm expansion's launch later this year.

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