Blizzard have announced changes to the company’s discussion forums which will require posting under gamer’s real names.
With the company admitting that the official forums had "earned a reputation as a place where flame wars, trolling, and other unpleasantness run wild," the publisher of World of Warcraft and the upcoming Stacraft II plans to drop support for online handles in favour of a new RealID system modelled on social networking sites.
"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 Blizzard said in the announcement.
The company’s representatives will also be posting using their real names. The move appears to set the groundwork for Battle.net to move closer towards being a social networking destination.
If the move does result in a less combative environment then Blizzard employees will likely breath a sign of relief given the historical torrent of abuse they have often been subjected to from gamers unhappy with game mechanics.
More broadly, the shift of such a large and long running community away from anonymity towards named identities is being seen as one of the greatest social experiments which will be keenly observed by fans, professionals and academics alike.
For further analysis of the Blizzard move, check out our feature: The Death of Anonymity.