Nobody, and I mean nobody, is able to draw up a storm of emotion in the world of MMORPGs quite like the folks over at Activision - Blizzard can. Whether it's masses of people waiting in line to get their hands on World of Warcraft's newest expansion, or a herd of angry gamers bombarding the forums over the introduction of non-combat pets into the game's store.
Well, the creators of the western world's most successful MMORPG are at it again, and this time what they're up to pulls at the heart strings of most anyone that's ever used an internet forum. They're going to force their players to post under their real names.
I am, of course, talking about The Real ID program and the outpouring of opinion that surrounds it.
Now, this article isn't meant to condemn the move or to support it. I'm sure that you're going to get plenty of that from nearly any video game site you might visit in the near future, and there are two good reasons why I'm not the one to start spouting off about it: 1) I don't play World of Warcraft, so this move, at least for now, doesn't affect me in the slightest. 2) As a condition of my job, I post on a volatile internet forum on a daily basis using my real name. You'll notice, for example, that this column isn't listed under Stradden, but rather under Jon Wood so I'm more in the "what's the big deal" camp that I would be otherwise.
Instead, what I wanted to talk about in this column is something that I've talked about in the past: Exercising your rights as a consumer.
So, I suppose that this column is directed more toward the folks that are up in arms about the recent decision than those who aren't.
First, I'd like to say that while I can appreciate the massive storm of hate that has poured down on Blizzard since this announcement was made, both on their official forums and on third party forums like ours, I honestly don't think that this is going to get the job done.
Blizzard is a company that has made itself famous by having a very good sense of how players are going to react to things. There's just no way in my mind that they weren't expecting a massive deluge of reactionary hate.
The problem is that hate just doesn't have any effect on their bottom line. It's the strangest thing, and it a phenomenon that's repeated time and time again across pretty much every MMO. Players will hate, they will kick and they will scream. They will threaten to quit if their demands aren't met. In the end though, companies don't often take this particularly seriously because it is so rarely backed up with action.
Over the years, I have had numerous conversations with developers about this phenomenon, and every time it really comes down to: We'll let them complain, because in the end they're not going to quit.
That isn't to say that no dev company ever listens to their audience when they complain. In fact, it happens all the time, but when it comes to the big huge decisions (like this one), the company expects a great deal of resistance, but has chosen to go ahead anyway.So, that brings me to my point: If you don't like what they're planning to do, quit. Don't just talk about it. Don't threaten, don't freak out. Just stop giving them your money, and do so along with a calmly composed email or letter (flying off the handle makes you look stupid and lets the reader assume you'll be back) stating why it is you're leaving the game.
Remember, as much as you like the game, no one is forcing you to play it. You can, at any time, take your money elsewhere. While it might suck to have to walk away from something that you've invested time and money in, it's really the only way to truly have your voice heard.
So, in the end, each and every WoW player out there needs to ask themselves on very simple but very important question:
Do I feel strongly enough about the changes being brought in by the REAL ID system to honestly pack up and walk away from WoW, potentially forever?
If you answered yes to that question, then you need to actually do it. If you didn't, you need to seriously ask yourself if getting all worked up is a good use of your time given that you're not willing to exercise the only real power you have in your relationship with Blizzard to make a difference.