Blizzard likes Farmville, too bad we are the sheep

I am pretty sure that this will be my last post about Real ID and it’s implementation into the forums.

EDIT: Blizzard has since announced that real names will not be required on the forums. Also I do not plan to quit the game at this time. I am removing all the other hasitly written edits to this post in an effort to make it half assed legible again. Anything else on this topic will be rolled into its own post.

Not because I don’t have anything more to say after this, but because the next thing I say will be goodbye. Actually I had a long talk with my kids that possibility yesterday and we all agreed that would be the next logical step.

Just as an FYI Blizzard, even a couple of WoW loving teenagers like mine can see how monumentally stupid this is. They are willing to quit as well, and are simply waiting for me to make the call when to pull the trigger on all our accounts.

The thing with that is that Blizzard could care less.

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The conversation, particularly with my son, got me to doing a lot of thinking on this.

Not about how stupid it is, because it’s not stupid. We just see it from the wrong point of view.

Not about how people are going to get hurt, or even how likely a few will die as a direct result.

There was one question my son asked that flipped a light switch in the part of my brain that loves making buckets of gold in the auction house.

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He simply asked “Why are they doing this?”

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Such a simple question, and yet not.

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Blizzard is not doing this to clean up the forums, that could be done in a dozen or more ways that have nothing to do with compromising the identities of its player base.

It also has nothing to do with the evil genius at the helm of Activision-Blizzard sitting in his office twirling his mustache while figuring out new ways to hurt his customers.

In the world of business, especially big money business, it simply does not work like that.

This is about money, and lots of it.

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Businesses make their money by keeping their customers happy.

What  a lot of people don’t realize (or choose to forget) is that the player is not the customer.

The players of Blizzard games (or any company’s games for that matter) are no more the customer than the sheep are the shepherds customer.

They are the resource, the source of the profit.

You, me, my kids, everyone that plays the game are just part of Blizzards vast herd of sheep.

Like the sheep, players need to be fed and maintained just enough shiny new things to keep us nice and docile so that we are still around, still making wool (or paying $15 a month as the case might be).

The stockholders of the company are the real customers.

When you are wondering why in the hell they come up with ideas remember a lot depends on your point of view.

Just as a Shepard would gladly feed a few sheep to the wolves if it ment getting thousands more in return, so Blizzard has no problem losing a few of its long term customers in exchange for a whole lot of new ones.

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The thing to ask is that knowing how many of their sheep they expect to lose, and knowing that the creation and implementation of this is going to cost them considerable capital, not just in cash and loss of developer time but also loss of  goodwill and bad press,  why do it?

What are they gaining?

How does this benefit the customer?

Show me how this makes them money, because that my friends is what is the driving force behind this.

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I know that somewhere, likely in a meeting room in Irvine, the decision to enter social media was made.

Someone standing at the head of a table, likely near a Powerpoint projector, convinced a group of people that this would make the company a profit.

I can see that somewhere the decision to gather all of the gamers that play Blizzard games under one banner was made.

Someone, maybe even the same one, convinced the powers that be that this would generate revenue as well.

I can see the company intentionally making it harder (and i predict it getting ever harder) to keep your gaming separate from any other internet presence you might have.

This like everything else was approved at a board meeting and expected to turn a profit.

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The big question here is not whether Real ID is good or bad.

Just like forcing people to put their real name out there, to essentially out themselves as gamers, is not the issue.

It is in fact the desired result.

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Blizzard is, in my opinion, attempting to overcome the social stigma in this country against gaming and gamers in general. They are doing this by slowly (though not slowly enough, some of the sheep are noticing) becoming one with social media.

That is why they partnered with Facebook.

That is why there are IPhone apps.

That’s why Ozzy played Blizzcon.

That is why Mr. T is still on my television tossing mohawk grenades, and why William Shatner is casting chain lighting.

That, my friends, does not come free.

Blizzard is paying good money to try to make its games more and more mainstream.

How do they see that investment paying off?

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I  believe that this has very little to do with World of Warcraft as a franchise, or even with the Starcraft series of games. I believe that we are starting to see glimpses of are shadows what the Next Gen MMO they are creating has in store for us.

We can’t see the game, but you can see it’s influence like ripples on a pond tell you something disturbed the waters.

The next generation game is going to try to capture the social media crowd as well, and will likely be partially integrated into Facebook. I don’t know how they plan to implement it, I don’t know what the game will be, and I don’t know exactly when it will happen.

But I am not fool enough to think Blizzard doesn’t want to harness the Farmville crowd as well. After all, they have proven very adept at herding sheep.

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Don’t honestly tell me you thought they entered into a partnership with Facebook just because they wanted to do an export friends list feature. 

They partnered with Facebook to make money. That is what businesses do.

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Just like the ripples in the pond told me something made a splash, I can see ripples of corporate policy coming through in some of what is happening.

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Those ripples tell me that social media is the way they are headed, and noting we can say or do is going to stop it.

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In fact, I can guarantee you that on that Powerpoint slide show was a graph.

A graph that showed how many of us old timers they plan to feed to the wolves, and how many more new sheep they will get in return.

Someone smiled when they looked at that graph, said “Let’s do this” and then went and bought the speaker a cup of coffee.

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Just another day at the office.

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