Good

July 9, 2010 at 8:58 pm (WoW General)

Let’s hear it for screaming your bloody head off.

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Welcome to WoWbook.

July 7, 2010 at 6:32 pm (WoW General)

One fairly common refrain, when people express angst about the RealID/forums announcement, is that it’s much ado about nothing – after all, many of us participate on Facebook under our real names.  What’s the harm?  The two are, of course, not directly comparable.  Like many, I have a Facebook account using my real name.  It is, however, accessible only to people on my friends list, save basic name/photo info that confirms nothing more than that I have a Facebook account, and that I am not the world’s most graceful photography subject.  Nothing about that is likely to cause me harm.  Facebook is sufficiently ubiquitous that nobody is going to hold the existence of a profile against you, and my photos online are quite innocuous.

Alas, rightly or wrongly, playing World of Warcraft carries a stigma.  Rightly or wrongly, in many industries, it is a black mark against you in hiring.  I blog under a pseudonym because I do not want potential employers discovering I play WoW.  It’s not worth the potential cost to my real life – I would quit the game first.  So the comparison is not germaine.

In one way, however, the comparison is prescient.  Facebook has come under some considerable scrutiny of late for the ways in which it has slowly diminished its users’ expectation of privacy, and that has called attention to the fact that, at bottom, Facebook’s users are not its customers.  Facebook’s advertisers are its customers – they pay the bills.  Facebook’s users are the product being delivered to the advertisers.  Their personal information is the commodity.

Blizzard’s subscriber list is potentially a gold mine source of revenue in much the same way Facebook’s is.  Activision-Blizzard are not unaware of this – they’re not fools.  The obstacle, to this point, to developing this revenue stream is that the sudden discovery that our data was being sold would result in mass departure from the game – it would cripple WoW and any goodwill associated with the company’s name.  How to get around this?  Slowly, piece by piece, erode the user’s expectation of privacy.  First, your ID is only exposed to your friends.  Then, only if you participate in what is (unless you count tech support and customer service) an optional “add-on” – the forums.  The end result is WoW as true social network, surrounded by a game (Farmville on steroids, essentially), with advertising and microtransactions the primary revenue stream.

Blizzard’s revenue stream is subscribers, you say?  Well yes.  For the moment.  Products have a lifecycle.  After a time, when growth slows or reverses, it becomes time to figure out how to eke out new revenue opportunities from the product.  WoW-as-social-network-and-targeted-advertising-platform would be a heck of an opportunity, if they can acclimate their users to accept it.

If this is the future of WoW, I want no part of it.

EDITED TO ADD:  I could have done research on this before I posted, I suppose.  Exhibit A.

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Appalling

July 7, 2010 at 7:20 am (Uncategorized)

Some time ago, my roommate had his credit card information stolen – he believed (credibly) that it was somebody he knew, who stayed with us for a couple of days.  The thief used the card info with a number of vendors, one of which was Blizzard.  My roommate, over the course of investigating the matter (little-known fact:  cops, at least in large cities, will not bother investigating low-level credit card fraud or identity theft unless the victim (from their point of view, the credit card company) begins pressing the matter, which they won’t, because it’s not worth their time) spoke to Blizzard, and attempted to procure the real identification (ha!) of the person associated with the account to which the fraudulent charges were applied.

He was rejected out of hand.  Blizzard’s reason was that, for the protection of account security and customer privacy, they would not release that information to anybody but the account holder or the police.  My roommate pointed out that, whether he was the account owner of record, he had nonetheless been called upon to pay fees associated with the account, and should therefore be able to find out whose fees he paid.  No dice.  He found this appalling.  I defended it, and in fact appreciate it in a sense, because while I wished that “just this once” they would bend so the bastard who stole from my roommate could get caught, I appreciated that Blizzard would not bend on protecting their customers’ privacy.

To my roommate, I apologize.  I was clearly wrong.

As I mentioned over at RighteousOrbs, I have an unusual name in real life, and am a member of a profession (law) that requires that I keep a public-record address, either business or professional.  While I was unemployed, my home address and phone number were posted on the internet, and there was nothing I could do about that, save letting my bar membership lapse.  While unemployed.  In the job market from hell.  I will not deal with the chance that I’ll get stalked by some maladjusted adolescent – I will simply not post.

As Blizzard’s major bug-report, tech-support, and customer support venues are on the forums, apparently I’m cut off from those as well – indeed, from any customer support that doesn’t involve putting in a ticket.  This is completely unacceptable.

I’m not walking now because I have faith this idiocy will be reversed.  If it’s not reversed by Cataclysm, I’m gone.

EDITED TO ADD:  Chas’s post at Righteous Orbs is must-read.

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