“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.
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?