I got a comment from a user named Bristal about my last post. I wanted to reply more in depth so I made it a new post. Here is the comment:
Clearly it is a move toward the (incredibly successful) trend of social networking sites to create a usable member community that represents value.
The case that it’s in all ways BAD is what I’m not clear about.
Isn’t it inevitable that playing an MMO-type game on the computer will be associated with some type of social/community network? Companies like Blizzard with millions of subscribers and a near-monopoly on a quality MMO cannot afford not to attempt something like this.
The Facebook database is worth BILLIONS. Much of it potential earnings, much like the early dot com years of creating nearly useless websites and selling them for millions. Most of us wondered what all that was about, too.
It seems to me that a social network functionality would obviously improve player organization, allow fansites for players, help police idiotism, in short, do some of the things Blizzard has been criticized for not doing.
Not to say that Blizzard is doing it right way, at the right time, or that there isn’t significant risk in pissing many of us off.
But it certainly seems inevitable.
It has to have value to the user. The value of Bliz selling our identities to Facebook does not move us as consumers. It is only the value that they provide to US, the users. In the end that is what will make or break them.
Value in anonymity
And this is what they lost sight of. They forgot that for a large number of us players there is value in insulation. I don’t play WOW to be known as myself. Anonymity has value. Having an alternate persona also has value. In many realms of life we have insulation. We might not talk about politics with our prayer group or religion at work, We might not talk about sports with our spouse or what we do in the bedroom with anyone outside of it. There are many aspects of life we like to keep segregated into their own channels. For example I don’t want to know how my guild-mates voted in the last election because knowing that might make it harder for me to respect them. In game I respect them for their in game activities. I have played MMOs with a wide variety of people and the level of anonymity they provide has allowed me to make a connection with them that is deeper than what I might have made had I known more. Good or bad people make judgments about others. Removing the veil of secrets does not make that go away.
Some people seem to want a vast experiment where no one has secrets from anyone. Personally I want no part of that. People need their spaces and their outlets. How many times have you heard someone lament that someone found their blog that they did not want to see it. Or someone read their email, or someone’s parents got on facebook and wanted to be their friend.
Value in connection
There is a fine line between too much connection and too little. In WOW since launch there has been too little. Server populations are not that high compared to the population of the game. So the chance of you meeting a fellow WOWite in real life and being on the same server was very low. And there was no way to change servers. Then they added ways to do that but you have to pay money and leave everyone you know in game behind. So there is simply no way to play with people you know unless they deliberately sacrifice for you (or you for them) by rerolling (and leveling for weeks) or by leaving all their old friends.
That has not changed. There is still very little way to keep with IRL peopled or to go play with them in game if you did not level together.
But they have added tools. For example anyone can see your armory and see what you are up to online… SO? That is not a connection that is a window. They provided a window whereby strangers could see what you were doing like a bug under glass.
They also added cross sever BG and instances. Very cool! Except… no connections there either. You have no control over who you get from another server. You only have a limited server pool and you have no way to keep in contact with someone after the run. Connection made. Connection instantly broken.
Doing it wrong
Then came Real ID. We can monitor and talk to friends. So we can see what they are up to but we still can’t PLAY with them unless one of us server transfers or rerolls. So the VALUE, to the actual USER is very limited. Personally the only use I have for it is to see if the ONE IRL friend I have in game is online. Then I have to log over to a different server if I want to play with that friend. Of course a quick loggin over there would have told me the same thing. And the PRICE of this limited utility was that I have to give up my identity to anyone I want to connect with. So to gain a small utility I have to give up all that. Which means I can only use it for IRL friends. And that means the pool of people I can connect with through Real ID goes from dozens to just one. And the ‘value’ all but evaporates.
What we WANTED and the player base was asking for was cross server friends list. That and some way to party up with them and dungeon together. Not with real names, with character names. Sometimes people want space even from their guild. Maybe they have a secret alt they go to when drama shows up. There is nothing wrong with that. So why is Bliz making it harder to do? They dangle a carrot of utility before us and then demand the price of total privacy loss. “We will install a telephone in your house if you agree to move to a house of glass.”
Cross server friends and parties. That was the next logical and useful step. Selling their and our souls to Facebook was NOT it. Hanging the privacy of their player base out for all the scammers, hackers and stalkers to see was NOT the next logical inevitable answer.
What makes me mad they are doing it based on their (some Executive’s) ideas of what the internet social scene should be and completely ignoring what the players want.
Yeah I would not mind checking if someone of my FB friends play WOW. But since I can’t actually play with them without a server transfer then it does not matter. So there is very little VALUE to me there. But on the other hand since I have a unique name and the industry I work for DOES discriminate against gamers…. There is a LOT of value for me in anonymity.
So Bliz making deals does not impress me. Selling my identity does not impress me. Yeah who I am has value to other companies (ads and what not) but I am not interested in participating. It does not give value to ME, the playing customer. If you piss off your customers to make a buck you are doomed. I seriously think they are jumping the shark on this one.