Monday 12 July 2010

Do not crush the flowers of wisdom with the hobnail boots of cynicism

I may be becoming a terrible cynic, but I did wonder at first if the whole business about real names on Blizzard forum posts was just a money saving exercise to try and get rid of a few forum moderators. Then when they backed down within days it smacked slightly of something else: a highball negotiating technique, like where you want slightly nicer biscuits for your tea break so you open up with a demand for a 25% pay rise, shorter hours, longer holiday and Fortnum & Mason Date & Pecan Piccadilly Biscuits, and eventually haggle your way down to the desired Chocolate Hob-Nobs. The trouble is, from the outside the following all look pretty much the same:

Scenario 1:
  1. Blizzard wish to clean up their forums, and think real names will result in greater accountability and improved discussion; aware that it won’t be universally popular, they nevertheless believe that players will see the benefits and go along with the change
  2. Following the massive outcry and overwhelmingly negative reaction, Blizzard accept the well-reasoned arguments against mandating real names on the forums and adjust their policy
  3. Much rejoicing
Scenario 2:
  1. Activision execs decide nine swimming pools full of money just aren’t enough, figure they can squeeze a bit more out of Blizzard by cleaning up the forums and sacking a few moderators
  2. People point out this would be massively unpopular, and drive people away from the forums. Activision execs shout “CHA-CHING!” at the prospect of reducing bandwidth bills and sacking even more moderators.
  3. Backlash greater than expected, people unsubscribe from games citing RealID, demand removal of personal information. A quick bit of spreadsheet work suggests losses could cancel out savings, policy scrapped.
  4. ???
  5. Profit!
Scenario 3:
  1. A shadowy cabal including Blizzard and Facebook come up with strange and devious plans to link games accounts to accounts, then to Facebook profiles, allowing all sorts of information harvesting as well as the ability to spam friends with recruitment requests
  2. The blogosphere starts to get nervous about security and privacy implications
  3. Blizzard pick something they don’t really care about but know people will get worked up over, announce mandatory real names on forum posts (see also: “active decoy”)
  4. Internet goes crazy as predicted, massive coverage on news sites (see also: “no publicity is bad publicity”)
  5. Blizzard back down, appear sensitive to customer concerns defusing much of the negative opinion, proceed with original plans which don’t seem quite so extreme any more in comparison, eat chocolate Hob-Nobs

How about you, dear readers, do you believe in good intentions, greed, conspiracy, or a bit of everything? Or have you got any better theories, linking RealID to the identity of Kennedy’s actual assassin, the one who faked the moon landings?

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