Hubris

Hey...Trust Me.

“And a man who fancies himself a god feels a very human chill crawl up his spine.”

A lot of people talking (raving) and posting about Blizzard’s announcement that their Real ID feature, which uses a player’s real first and last name, would be used almost everywhere, including the World of Warcraft forums. That sound you heard – that’s the Internet imploding.

There’s mixed reactions around the blogs and new sites, though it’s mostly negative. Many, many real concerns are raised by the players; I will say there is potential good that could come of Blizzard’s decision, but more than anything it shows the unmitigated hubris of whomever is in charge of this decision (I’m not laying this one at the feet of Kotick, but someone made this decision and needs to own up). At the very least, Blizzard is finally showing what an 800-pound beast can do – whatever it feels like doing. I’m honestly torn on how I feel about this, but more on that a bit later.

The real problem, as I see it, is Blizzard is delving into an area way beyond their expertise and going places they really have no business going. They’re trying to build a social network, when they are a game company. I’m not saying that companies shouldn’t try to extend their experience, but Blizzard is way out of their zone, and apparently operating without a paddle, map, or a clue. Bring on the class action.

Perhaps Blizzard needs a sit-down with Facebook to talk about a user’s personal information and some of the privacy issues that can arise. Just saying.

Although this doesn’t really affect me (I haven’t played WoW in years, and never posted to the official forums), I’d have to say I’m mostly with GeeCee on this one – cautiously pessimistic. There is so much potential for abuse, and what they’re doing doesn’t solve any of the many problems currently plaguing the official forums. Quite the opposite, it creates new ones, the least of which is customer dissatisfaction. As if female WoW players didn’t have enough to deal with, now there’s no chance for anonymity.

Such a pretty face...

I am, however, going to play a bit of Devil’s Advocate here, as I have a bit of “insider” perspective. I work with sensitive data all day, and help administer the security protocols that control access to that data. Basically, I know a little about the ins-and-outs of privacy and personal information. I will say this: Those are Blizzard’s systems and they can do as they please. Every one of those who protest Blizzard’s decision agreed to Blizzard’s terms; the official forums and Battle.net are a service provided by Blizzard, for free, and the data contained in those systems belongs TO BLIZZARD. Yes, there are privacy concerns regarding personal information, and yes, Blizzard has responsibilities to their customers – an opt-out process at the very least. But every one of those customers agreed to the EULA, explicitly and implicitly, and I’m sure that somewhere in there is very clear language stating what Blizzard can do with the information customers surrender in order to have access to their free services. When Facebook’s changes blew up in their, well, face (no pun intended), the issue wasn’t so much that Facebook was doing X, Y, or Z with their [Facebook’s] data, it was that they were revealing so much by default, with confusing privacy controls that did not help their user’s determine what was shared and what wasn’t. I don’t think I ever heard anyone argue about what Facebook could do with data that they own (and user’s voluntarily gave up); it’s no different for Blizzard.

Still, I have to wonder – could it be Blizzard’s hubris that kills World of Warcraft?

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4 responses to “Hubris

  1. Cautiously pessimistic is exactly how I feel on this. I never had a reason to post on Blizzard forums, and now I never will. I think a lot of people will feel that way too, but for those who don’t care or don’t think it’s a big deal, I just wanted to throw my cautionary advice out there. Never know when you’ll regret something.

    The thing I’m worried about is that many developers these days look to WoW to “set the trend” so to speak…I will snap if other companies decide to go this route.

    • Beau over at Spouse Aggro pointed out that Real ID only displays the first and last name you give to your account – not necessarily the first and last name on the credit card, which I’m sure they consider the authoritative name for an account (what’s more important than the payment information?). This is a critical point, and one I think will ease people’s outrage a bit.

      The thing that bugs me more and more is the disregard Blizzard shows for their customers. No proposal, no conversation or feedback, just an edict – “THIS is the way it’s going to be”. If half their forum people stop posting, who cares? They’ll still pay their monthly sub…I get the distinct feeling of “absolute power” here.

      The forthcoming class action (wait for it…) will probably help. A little. If other devs follow suit, then I will start to truly worry.

    • Real ID only displays the first and last name I give to my account, true enough. But what if I was honest and used my real name when I created mine in the first place? I’m sure a lot of people are in this boat too, not knowing Blizzard will pull this kinda crap down the road. As far as I know, you are unable to change your name on your Real ID account (though if there is, let me know, because I just tried and it didn’t work but maybe I just didn’t look hard enough) which I believe is as they intended since this would discourage the selling/buying of accounts. Each Real ID has to be associated with a CD key, Blizzard has already made that clear…so if someone were to want to post under a fake name they would have to create a new account by buying a new copy of the game, as I understand it.

    • I can’t say for sure because I don’t currently have an active WoW account, but I think that Real ID is tied to your Battle.Net account. Isn’t it?

      I created a new Battle.Net account last night, and went in this morning, and lo and behold…no change to the name possible. You’re right (not that I ever doubted!). I was hoping this was the loophole that would let people step around the issue. Or, at least “tone down” their Real ID – use an initial for their first name, for example.

      Yeah, this keeps looking worse and worse…for Blizzard…

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