After a week of angry online protests Blizzard Entertainment has scrapped its controversial plan to force gamers to use their real names when posting on its official forums.
Blizzard's decision means users of the US company's popular forums will continue to post anonymously.
"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," CEO and co-founder Mike Morhaime said in a post on Blizzard's forum.
"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."
Blizzard planned to force players to use their Real ID – the real name associated with their Battle.net master account – when posting. Perhaps inevitably, the decision was met with a storm of protest when it was announced this week.
A Blizzard employee going by the handle Bashiok revealed his real name, Micah Whipple, on the forums in the course of the debate. WoW Riot responded by quickly finding and publishing Whipple's address, phone number, age, the names of his family, his Facebook page and lists of his favourite music and movies, to illustrate the privacy and identity theft issues raised by Blizzard's decision.
"It's important to note that we still remain committed to improving our forums," Morhaime continued. "Our efforts are driven 100 per cent 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."
While critics will view the reversal as a victory, Morhaime was keen to remind gamers that Blizzard still intends to employ Real ID within its games and that the system will continue to evolve.
"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, 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."