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The gaming wizards at Blizzard learned some valuable lessons recently: Their customers like being nasty to each other online and they’re timid about anybody knowing. Interfere with either of these things at your business peril.
With this in mind, the company’s retreating from its idea of insisting that folks who post on their popular game forums use their real names.
Makers of World of Warcraft and StarCraft II, Blizzard had announced recently that anybody posting to these sites in the future could no longer do so anonymously or by using a game character name.
To quote the company’s announcement: “In the near future, anyone posting or replying to a post on official Blizzard forums will be doing so using their Real ID — that is, their real-life first and last name — with the option to also display the name of their primary in-game character alongside it.”
The company leaders were hoping to introduce a more civil tone and friendly discourse on the forums — which was pretty lousy. Again, to quote the original announcement: “The forums have also earned a reputation as a place where flame wars, trolling and other unpleasantness run wild.”
Well, those trolls, flamers and generally unpleasant folks didn’t like this idea at all.
After the announcement was made, they began posting their nearly universal dislike of the new policy.
After getting hit with a flood of complaints, Blizzard seems to have fully abandoned the idea of forcing posters to use real names. CEO Mike Morhaime posted the new decision on the same forum site his company’s attempting to tame.
Morhaime wrote in his post:
“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.”
What can companies do to insure that the forums they host retain an air of collegiality and friendliness? Do consumers really want collegiality and friendliness, or are they more drawn to conflict and hostility?
When your company sells products and hosts forums with names that include “War” and “Battle” in them, it’s tough to make a strong case for cooperation and conciliation.
Case in point: At the same time that they’re trying to introduce a level of camaraderie and friendliness to online discussions, they’re also planning to launch “Cataclysm.”
Does this seem a little delusional to anyone out there?
Apparently, the folks at Blizzard need to take Branding 101.
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