I guess everyone has heard by now the upcoming changes to Blizzard forums whereby every post or response will include the posters first and last name with the post. To say the response has been exceedingly vocal and negative is a rather large understatement. I am not sure if Blizzard was expecting this amount of vitriol and disgust but they got it regardless.
So what do you do as a company with over 12 million paying customers and a new feature you thought would be cool (and apparently is one step in a long line of changes you were envisioning) is so heavily and negatively responded to?

1. Do nothing

The first option would be to pretty much give the vociferously negative community the finger, implement the feature as planned regardless and force everyone to adjust. This is probably the easiest thing to do and (I hate to say it) very likely. There are a lot of problems with this, however.

As a company, Blizzard has stated many times that they listen and consider and act on player feedback. This one announcement has created more negative response than any other feature I can think of ever in the history of World of Warcraft. I may have missed something else but this trikes as me the biggest (feel free to correct me if I am wrong). To not respond to this would pretty much make all of Blizzard’s assertions that they listen to the players a moot point. You cannot be a company that “listens and cares” if this event doesn’t force you to do something about it.

2. Allow the name display option to be opt-in

Do you want to post on the forums but not show your real name? Just turn it off on your forum settings. There, problem solved. Real name display is still on the forums but only if you want to.

One big problem! What would be the point of real name display at all then. If you can just turn it off then all the reasons Blizzard said they were implementing this become pointless. Reduce the amount of forum trolls? They can just turn off real name display. Allowing an opt in would satisfy all the people that have a problem with displaying first and last name with every one of their posts, but essentially removes any benefit of having it there at all.

3. Remove real name display entirely.

This is similar and even simpler than Do Nothing above. Just don’t replace the existing forums at all. Or do replace them but add other useful features of Real ID into them, such as only showing your real name to people who are on your Real ID friends list, allow people to request being added to your Real ID friends list from the forum, etc. Adding those Real ID features might help push Real ID further while still giving people options and protection. If trolling is still the main driver for implementing real names in the forums, find alternate ways of fighting it rather. Have more moderators perhaps?

4. A Sum-up

Blizzard needs to do something. They need to alter their plans in some way to appease the very upset player base. Real ID needs to start including more control for an individual for it to really take off. As I have commented elsewhere, Real ID is an all or nothing experience. Either your friends you have added see everything you are doing on any of your characters across all Blizzard games all the time whenever they want, or you don’t use the feature at all and they know nothing. There is no middle ground, no “Offline mode” or “Do not allow Friends of Friends to see my details”. This lack of options to control what data is visible to who and when is what essentially prevents me from using Real ID. And the forum changes are another scary “all or nothing” feature. I may not care if my real name is displayed on the forums, my problem is not that. My concern is we have no choice in the matter.

All or nothing!