Saturday, July 10, 2010

Blizzard "Backs Down"

To a chorus of largely positive responses, Blizzard has "backed down" from its plans to make posting with your real name mandatory on its new forums. Without a doubt, this is good news. I won't go into why it was a terrible idea, because I've already done that.

What I do want to talk about, however, is that I'm not 100% sure this whole thing was genuine. I did mention in passing in my previous post on the subject that I was a little suspicious over Blizzard's intentions, and the timing on their backdown has only increased those suspicions. For three days they allowed the forums to go wild with the player backlash, then just as the story began to spread to the wider world, they put a lid on it.

Now, I'm not usually a conspiracy theorist and I normally laugh at the theories some people come up with. But this time the theory makes too much sense. There are two huge advantages Blizzard gains over this whole mess.

Firstly, this story has generated enough publicity and spread to enough newspapers and online news services in the world that it has no doubt managed to put Wow back on the minds of people who have let their subscriptions lapse during the pre-expansion blues. As happens with every expansion, people get bored after finishing all the content and turn to other games to tide them over. This story would no doubt serve as a reminder that Wow is still around and still relevant, and possibly give some people a nudge to renew their subscriptions.

Secondly, it is a widely accepted PR tactic to generate (read: fake) bad publicity about your client in order to bring him/her/it into the media's eye. We see it every day with celebrities (Brangelina have been about to break up for the past three years), new movies (surely every set in Hollywood can't be overrun with feuding costars), new TV shows, new products, and so on. What it does is make the client seem relevant again. Also, on occasion, it can mask a slightly less controversial change that the client actually does want to make.

And this is what makes me think. If Blizzard wants to, they can now announce that in the new forums everyone will need to post on and be known by just one alias. Prior to the big controversy, there would have been many complaints about this, I'm sure. Some people just like to complain. But now there will be much wider acceptance in the Wow community, plus Blizzard got some great publicity out of it.

The proof will be in the pudding, as my grandma says. I think this was a carefully thought-out, cleverly executed, publicity stunt. I'll be interested to see how things pan out in the days to come.

1 comment:

  1. I think the most amusing thing about this, Mike Morhaime comes off as a good guy, and he can basically deflect all blame to Bobby Kotick.

    Basically it's pure awesome win PR for Blizzard and they can completely deflect all negativity. Amazing coup d'tat.