World of Warcraft maker to end anonymous forum logins

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StarCraftII artwork
Image caption,
It has been 12 years since Blizzard last released a StarCraft title

A row has erupted after Blizzard - the publishers of the popular online game World of Warcraft - announced that users on its site forums would have to post under their real names.

The firm say the move is to put an end to heated online arguments and topics started purely to cause trouble.

But users reacted angrily, citing concerns about safety and privacy.

Blizzard said they would start implementing the changes over the next few months.

A post, by Vaneras - one of the site community managers - said that the forums had become " a place where 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 post continued.

People talk

Blizzard's new system - Real ID - means that users will have to post under their real first and last name.

The firm said it will implement the changes over the next few weeks, with the StarCraft II forums - a section dedicated to the forthcoming real time strategy game - making the switch by the end of the month. The World of Warcraft forum will change soon after.

In addition to users now posting under their own names, the site will allow others to rate post and interact with other users, creating a "social-networking platform".

"As the way gamers interact with one another continues to evolve, our goal is to ensure is equipped to handle the ever-changing social-gaming experience for years to come," the post by Vaneras went on.

The online community was swift to respond, with more than a thousand replies in less than 24 hours; the majority of which expressed their displeasure at the move.

"I can't even begin to fathom why you would do this", posted one user, while another wrote that it seems "like someone who likes Facebook came up with it, while being blissfully unaware that an awful lot of people deliberately avoid Facebook".

Real worlds

One World of Warcraft player, Jim Brand, contacted BBC News to say how disappointed he was over the change.

"I have been using the forums for over five years, reporting bugs and trying to be helpful. Now, to have the privilege to help people on the forums I have to reveal my real name; I'm dead against it," he said.

"I work in a charity and deal with governments officials. If they do a search and see I am a gamer, it could affect my employment prospects," he added.

Although most social networking sites have links to a person's real world name, gaming sites have always used anonymous handles.

There have been a few rare cases of online gaming disputes spilling out into the real world, and users are mostly reluctant to reveal personal details, given that video games can sometimes elicit strong emotions.

Mr Brand said that one Blizzard employee posted his real name on the forums, saying that there was no risk to users, and the experiment went drastically wrong.

"Within five minutes, users had got hold of his telephone number, home address, photographs of him and a ton of other information," said Mr Brand

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