Why Empowering Communities Is A Good Idea

World of Warcraft users will not have to post under their real names in its forums. How could Blizzard have handled it better?

Earlier this week, PSFK had reported on the backlash Blizzard Entertainment received for making it mandatory for its World of Warcraft users to post under their real names in its forums. It turns out that the company has now backed off and reversed its decision to introduce Real ID for now. Gamepro, in its analysis of the situation, spoke to two of the most respected names in the field-Howard Rheingold of Stanford University and F. Randall Farmer, architect of several virtual world platforms.

On asked why people vehemently opposed Blizzard’s move, Rheingold said:

People get very upset when there’s any chance that’s a significant change in an online forum that they are used to communicating with. To the degree that they take ownership of it is the degree to which it’s successful, which is kind of a paradox. If you’re successful, people are going to resent it if you change things [and you need to change things to remain successful]. People don’t like that. They become accustomed to it [the way that it is]. They’ve projected the feeling of home on it.

Rheingold and Farmer both had the same advice for Blizzard on how to address its problem of regaining the community’s trust:

Talk to the community, empower it to make its own changes. If Blizzard had done this from the very beginning — gone to the community and asked for their help in solving the problem [trolling and spamming] — the community would’ve come up with solutions. And Real ID might even have been one of them.

Gamepro agrees with Farmer when he says that using real identities may indeed be the correct strategy for World of Warcraft in the long term, but next time, it should involve the community in its decision making process.

Gamepro: “Analysis: Blizzard’s real problem with Real ID and the way to solve it”

Image by fiveinchpixie

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