Blizzard’s move into real ID was seen as a hostile action by consumers and as an invasion of privacy and exposing the consumer to the threats on the Internet. When the CEO breaks the news that the company will not be doing it, you know it reached the big time.
So why did Blizzard even go down the real ID route? People blame Activision for everything bad Blizzard does, but Activision wouldn’t have any role over this. And it doesn’t seem the Real ID was the CEO’s decision. It seemed like it would have been a decision made by someone underneath him.
One thing you guys have to understand about business is that changes in the law totally alter the landscape of business. In other words, a business’s plans for the future changes drastically when the law changes. If the law keeps changing wildly, the business will just sit on its hands and wait for the law to stop changing so the business can expand and invest.
The decision behind Real ID at Blizzard very well could have resulted from a legal reason within South Korea. A Harvard blog elaborates:
US customers of game maker Blizzard are up in arms tonight as news of a new policy is set to require all posts on the Blizzard forum to use their Real ID system. That means that every post is accompanied by the real first and last name of the user. People are unsure what to make of this and I haven’t seen any communication from Blizzard stating why they are making this change.
I’m going to make the suggestion that South Korea’s Real Name System [is a driving force behind this decision]*. In 2009 South Korea’s government created a law that was meant to curb online defamation by insisting that all users who comment on sites with greater than 100,000 users per day must use their real name. The first US company to feel the effects of this law was Google. South Korea insisted the Youtube comments require all users to post with their real first and last name. Google got around this law by forbidding anyone with a South Korean IP address from posting to Youtube. Recently South Korea backed down and exempted Youtube from the Real Name system.
Given these facts it might not make sense why South Korea might enforce the Real Name system on Blizzard. My guess would be that the government is very aware of the immense popularity of Starcraft in South Korea. Some have joked it is their national sport. South Korea even has professional SC leagues with sponsors and packed arenas. I don’t think Blizzard can take the Google approach here and just ban South Korean users from posting to their forums. The South Korean market must make a ton of profits for Blizzard and unlike Google they don’t have revenue coming in from other sources.