Real ID – Real Problem


With the launch of World of Warcraft 3.3.5 patch players were let into the world of Real ID. Real ID offers the ability to put in more personal information that is available to all users which includes anyone who plays Blizzard games online. Players can chat across different servers/games, create a friends list, message players and other social networking type add-ons.

Real ID has raised some concerns as of late. Based on the fact that you must input your personal information to use Real-ID, you can’t remain anonymous such on other gaming/social communication tools like Steam’s universal chat. Due to this, people are far more at risk for cyberstalking and other information leaks and scams.

Considering a good portion of Blizzard’s gaming public may be young and influential, the ability to post your personal and private information including email and name can be used as an in for such frauds as identify theft, sexual misappropriations and other terrible actions from the bowels of the internet.

Blizzard was smart enough to have some foresight in the matter. Players must first mutually agree to be friends before you can view the others personal info. Further more, Blizzard stresses how to wisely use Real-ID to avoid being scammed. Quoting from their Real-ID FAQ: “The Real ID is a system designed to be used with people you know and trust in real life — friends, co-workers and family.”

That’s all fine, well and good, but its easy to see how people could add people they only know in-game considering those are the people that the system is targeted to connect.

Perhaps most distressing in all this is one little nugget pulled again from the FAQ: “If you are using Real ID, your mutual Real ID friends, as well as their Real ID friends, will be able to see your first and last name (the name registered to the account). You will also be able to see the first and last name of your Real ID friends and their Real ID friends.”

What that means is not only do possible scammers get access to your personal information, but your entire network of friends as well. This leads to a massive web of inter-connected players – the perfect playground for scammers.

This kind of lax social networking has become standard of such sites as Facebook and Myspace. However, this is a jump into video games – where, up until now, remaining anonymous as you gun down terrorists or smite wicked trolls was seen as standard and the system worked well. Adding a feature like Real-ID opens up an entire can of worms that this reporter doesn’t think video games completely need to be enjoyed. There are dozens of other networking sites that players can use to connect through. It’s admirable that Blizzard is throwing their own style into the mix – but the idea that it is so easy to misappropriate and have your personal information on the screens of potentially dangerous, or simply, unknown gamers is too big a risk just to help people communicate more effectively in-game.

In addition to this, in order to post on forums, starting with the launch of Cataclysm, players must be logged in through Real-ID. This means that whatever you post will be have your real name as the writer and your personal info a click away. This is another distressing action considering so many forums seem to live on the control to stay unknown.

That being said, the majority of gamers will have no problem with Real-ID and will mainly see it as another neat addition to their favorite games. But for the unfortunate select few that are scammed or otherwise hurt by using Real-ID, the cons far outweigh the minor benefits.

Real ID may be a very cool way to stay in touch with friends and family while playing your favorite Blizzard games. The only problem is that by friending people you are opening yourself up to have your personal information exposed to dozens, if not hundreds of people that you may not have any real connection to. Add in the heavy amount of online theft and general scams out there, and its plain to see why Real ID can be seen as a real problem.

For Blizzard/Battlenet latest announcement on Real ID, click here.

For some levity on the situation, check out Noob Comics take on the fiasco.

Play safe gang.


  1. Normally I agree with most of this blog, but not on this one. :)

    Like you stated, most people will enjoy nothing but benefits from this. So what you are saying is that because some people will be scammed, Blizzard should just not do this?

    So long as there is a descent warning about it, and it is an option to turn off under parental controls, I see no problems with it at all.

    Just like the US government of late, I’m sick of being babied and limited in what i can do because a select few are too stupid to not get hurt by it and by scare tactics in the media. When people fall for scams, etc they learn from it. Better to be scammed in WoW, than your bank account.

  2. For some people, getting scammed in WoW is almost the same as unauthorized bank withdrawals. WoW account and gold is worth a lot of money if you ignore the ToS.

    Awful idea and thousands of people have already voiced their opinions on Posting on forums with Real ID can be linked back to account sales pretty easily. Be careful.

  3. Let’s look beyond the obvious. The family and friends angle of their argument – a smoke screen and a clue to their real attention. What happens if you are in a guild with someone for months and decided to let him be your friends through Real ID? How can you determine he is not scammer ? Look at people’s behaviour with Facebook. It’s for friends and family but it’s the No 1 target for scammers in 2010.

    No, it’s a very thin justification.

    The Real Reason for Real ID : China.

    China has the biggest online users in the world. Blizzard has WoW, the biggest MMORPG in the world. We all know how China require it’s online users to have Real IDs. Blizzard is preparing it’s business pratices for a proper Chinese entry. What good way to attract China to receive your company than emulate what it do : Get your current users to be Chinese.

    Chinese users have to use their own Real ID for online activites. For life.
    Why not have your own 8 millions WoW users have Real ID. For fun.

    It’s not about fun with family and friends. It’s about Blizzard wanting a stronger grip on the Chinese IT business potential and those suckers with the Blizzard Real ID are it’s peace offering for China.

  4. I wonder if it is possible to register a WoW/Battlenet account with a fake name… From what I remember, credit card information and the account holder’s name are separate, so paying for the game shouldn’t be affected by supplying a fake name for the account holder. If this is possible, I definitely see myself doing that.

  5. To add to what I said earlier, this is only a problem with the forums. I only plan on using Real ID with people I know in real life. However, having your personal information displayed anyways on each forum post regardless of if you are friends or not is definitely not something I am going to sit down and accept. As said earlier, supplying a fake name would possibly solve this problem for me assuming they don’t give address and credit card details as well *rolls eyes*.

  6. Update to my previous comment. As a better friends list, Real-ID makes sense.

    But being brought into the forums (where you are forced to go with your technical issues, etc) is just garbage.

    Already multiple people (including Bashiok a forum mod) who have said somethign akin to “I dont care if people know my real name is John Peabody.” And they have in turn had people call them at work, and spout ALL their personal information in response making them eat their words.

    This will not go over well when it goes live. When things like this happens, and big names or companies argue with the internet as a whole, shit goes down. DRM, LifeLock, and other things where the internet as a whole is ‘challenged’ never end well. Some bad things are going to happen right off the bat, just because people (using fake Real-ID’s) will feel they are being challenged. If you know anyone playing WoW, tell them to at least wait for the initial wave of crap to finish before letting their name get out.

  7. I have been playing WoW for just over five years, but I canceled my account today over this! My personal information is not for sale… not even for a really good MMO.

  8. I added my two cents in the Blizzard forums; I was respectful and adult about it (as I am just normally). I made a total of 7 posts, discussing potential ramifications with other players, explaining avenues players could take to file privacy complaints, and also enumerating my own fears of being compelled to reveal my full name in a public forum in order to post for such things like tech support. Blizzard’s response was to ban me for “spamming and trolling”.

    That’s not even the worst of it. All my posts were also deleted. I am finding that hundreds of players have been banned/deleted for merely posting dissent. On the WoW forums, Blizzard posted “we’re okay with that” in response to the idea that many players would not post any longer under their real name, and many players would cancel.

    What’s more, there’s already an in-game exploit that someone can use to see your realID there. First of many, I’m sure.

    I canceled my account and am taking my money elsewhere.

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