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Blizzard backs off real-name forum mandate

Days after announcing a plan that would have required users to use their real first and last names on its online forums, WoW developer listens to user gripes and reverses its stance.

Game developer Blizzard has backed down on a plan to require users of its official online forums to register with real names, just days after announcing the move.

The shift, announced Friday in a message posted to the company's forums, followed a firestorm of criticism from users expressing privacy concerns.

"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," Mike Morhaime, CEO and co-founder of Blizzard Entertainment, wrote in the Friday post. "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."

Quincy Featherbottom
Does Quincy Featherbottom support the reversal? It's hard to tell from his expression. GameSpot

Morhaime stressed that the real-name requirement was not to be confused with the optional in-game Real ID system that's now live with World of Warcraft and launching soon with StarCraft II. That system is a voluntary, optional level of identity designed to keep players connected even outside of games with features such as cross-game and cross-realm chat and real names on friends lists.

Forum users met Morhaime's announcement with hundreds of pages of messages, many of them thanking Blizzard ("Fantastic. Thanks for restoring my faith in you guys," read one post typical of the mood on the boards. Read another: "The little guy wins!").

Some, however, tempered their relief with caution. "Although I certainly am grateful for the announcement, concerned about the use of 'At This Time,'" wrote another poster. "This is definitely code for "At some point, we may consider trying again."

Blizzard said its original intent in asking gamers to use their real first and last names was to reduce so-called 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," the company said Tuesday.

Users responded swiftly to the impending change, posting well over 2,000 pages of messages on the highly active Blizzard forums, the bulk of them negative.

"I know a lot of people are going to just simply STOP using the forums when you do this, you're not bringing us together, you're making us all too afraid to interact with each other out of fear of identity theft and the like," read a post that appeared to sum up the popular sentiment expressed in the thousands of responses, though some posters attempted to assuage such concerns.

In its effort to improve forums, Blizzard said Friday, it will still move ahead with new features such as the ability to rate posts up or down and highlight posts based on rating, as well as improved search functionality, and more.