Activision/Blizzard, the video game giant that produces the popular fantasy title World of Warcraft, is looking to improve the quality of comments in its online forums by eliminating users' anonymity.
The company will apply its recently introduced Real ID system to its game forums, starting with the July 27 release of StarCraft II.
Real ID, which was introduced in June as an optional way to communicate across Activision/Blizzard's games, displays users' real first and last names, a change from the old system that allowed gamers to go by their character names instead. Real ID will be mandatory for users wishing to participate in the forums.
The company said the move was an effort to eliminate spam and anonymous attacks on users by other, undesirable users, often referred to as "trolls." The new system will also be applied to other Activision/Blizzard games, including Diablo and the hugely popular World of Warcraft, which has more than 11 million players worldwide.
"The forums have … earned a reputation as a place where flame wars, trolling, and other unpleasantness run wild," the company said in a post on the World of Warcraft forum on Tuesday. "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 announcement sparked outrage among World of Warcraft fans, who piled angry comments onto the game's forums on Wednesday. Many commenters said they wanted to continue taking part in the forums but did not want their identities made public.
"People are up in arms because their real name is going to be displayed in the forums," one commenter said. "This means that someone could type your name into Google and suddenly all your forum posts will be displayed. It means that prospective employers can read all your forum posts before they bring you in for an interview."
Some also said the move wasn't being made to clean up conversations but rather to let Activision/Blizzard create a social network and monetize people's personal information, similar to how Facebook sells targeted advertising.
Shon Damron, a spokesperson for Activision/Blizzard, said the company was monitoring the feedback and how people would be using the service.
"It's important to note that both enabling Real ID in game and posting on the official Blizzard forums are completely optional," Damron said. "Players can continue to read the forums anonymously as normal regardless of whether they choose to post in them, and their gameplay experiences will not change if they choose not to use the Real ID communication features in-game."
A number of comments agreed with the company's view, that the forums have become a "hive of scum and villainy," and supported the move. Others, however, said the implementation of Real ID was an invasion of their privacy and they had filed complaints with the respective authorities.
A spokesperson for Canada's Privacy Commissioner said the office has received several inquiries but had directed them back to Activision/Blizzard.
"We've suggested that callers contact the site's privacy officer to ask for an explanation of why this personal information is being requested," said Valerie Lawton. "We always recommend that, as a first step, individuals try to resolve privacy concerns with the person responsible for privacy within an organization. We suggest they come back to us if they aren't satisfied with the response they receive."