Blizzard forums to require real names

Storm of protest over Battle.net Real ID.

Blizzard has unleashed a hurricane of internet rage by announcing that it will require users to post under their real names on its forums, in a move intended to create a more "positive", "constructive" community.

The change, announced on the Battle.net forum, will come into effect for StarCraft II forums before the game's release at the end of this month. World of Warcraft forums will follow suit "near the launch of Cataclysm", the third expansion pack for the MMO which is expected to launch at the end of this year.

Anyone posting or replying to a post on these forums will have to use their Real ID - their real first and last name, as registered with their Battle.net account. Existing posts will remain as they are.

"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 - however, the forums have also earned a reputation as a place where flame wars, trolling, and other unpleasantness run wild," Blizzard offered in explanation of the change.

"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 havenít been connected before."

Although some have welcomed the move, it has sent a shockwave of protest through Blizzard's community. At time of writing, the threads on the subject on the European and North American WOW forums run to 119 and an astonishing 861 pages respectively, with those numbers rising by the minute.

"Keep in mind that posting is optional, and we recognise that some players will choose not to utilize the Real ID feature in game or post on the forums and support everyone's individual choice on using or not using it," community manager Nethaera - real name unknown, for now - posted in response to complaints. Parents will be able to disallow children from posting by using parental account controls.

Part of Blizzard's major overhaul of its Battle.net online framework, use of Real ID is optional in the developer's games. It provides a way to link characters and game accounts under a single identity, and keep track of friends by mutual agreement, in the style of social networking sites like Facebook.

"With the launch of the new Battle.net, it's important to us to create a new and different kind of online gaming environment - one thatís highly social, and which provides an ideal place for gamers to form long-lasting, meaningful relationships. All of our design decisions surrounding Real ID - including these forum changes - have been made with this goal in mind," Blizzard said.

"As the way gamers interact with one another continues to evolve, our goal is to ensure Battle.net is equipped to handle the ever-changing social-gaming experience for years to come."

Although popularised by Facebook, Blizzard's move away from anonymity is unprecedented in gaming, and still extremely rare in the general area of internet community management. There's no doubt it's brave, but will it have the desired effect on its community, or kill it altogether? Does it pose a threat to the protection of your privacy or identity? Let us know your thoughts - under whatever username you choose - in the comments.

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