Edit: The situation that prompted this post has changed drastically and the plans that were suggested have been scrapped. See This link.
There is a tremendous furor in progress on the WOW forums here. Essentially what has occurred is that Blizzard has announced that everyone using the forums will have to post with their real first and last name when their new forums launch in the near future. Note that in 48 hours they have accumulated a complaint thread 2000 pages long with 40,000 posts that are almost all negative. Their plans seem to be focused around two major things:
1. Clean up the place. The forums right now are a haven for whining, flaming, cursing, bumping and grandstanding. I occasionally look at them for a laugh but for any serious purpose I go to a secondary site with strict moderation. Blizzard wants to make the forums useful and welcoming to new players and they feel that adding this degree of accountability will help that.
2. Make a social network. There is a drive in place to partner with Facebook and create a giant social network across all Blizzard games. Certainly there is a lot of money available in marketing through social networks and there are even benefits for users, but many people don't want a social network, just a game.
People have all kinds of problems with this. Many of them are concerned about someone in game finding their name, flying to their city and stabbing them. They should be more concerned about slipping in bathtub or crossing the street. Some are concerned that future dates will Google them and refuse to date them because they play video games. Did you know that people you date might NOTICE that you are a gamer at some point? There are others that feel that if their name appears on a forum their professional reputation will be permanently ruined. Right, because if someone Googles a lawyer named Fernando Sanchez and notices that some guy named Fernando Sanchez posted on a game forum, obviously their lawyer is a basement dwelling lowlife.
Most the reasons that people give for hating this idea are garbage. However, there are actually plenty of good reasons to think that forcing people to post with their real names is a bad plan. First, some people signed up with their real name. Others signed up as LOOOL NOOB, and any new player to WOW could (should?) sign up with either a nonsense name, a pseudonym, or simply John Smith. This results in a distinct double standard that Blizzard cannot rectify; some people will be posting on their real name and others will be known as Giant Tool. Another big issue is what Blizzard expects to do with the 10,000 distinct John Smiths on the forums. They have said that linking a character to the profile is optional, so there is no way for the majority of players to distinguish between the various John Smiths, many of whom who will certainly refuse to link a character just to confuse people.
Of course another big strike against them is the simple fact that people hate it. Angering many of your customers and convincing them to cancel subscriptions or not post on the forums is not good business. Even if the concerns they have are bogus there is plenty of argument for offering the service people want to pay for instead of the service you wish they wanted to pay for. Blizzard had a glowing image in the gaming community until about two days ago and it is tarnishing at a tremendous rate, and whether that is fair or not does not change that.
I think that these changes will work to improve the level of discourse on the forums and reduce the pointless spam and trolling. Things will get better and the official forums will improve. However, I also think that there are much better solutions to the problem than what they are proposing. Forcing everyone to use a single gamertag title for all posts and aggressively handing out permanent bans for bad forum behaviour will achieve all their forum cleanup goals quite easily without causing a ruckus and without any concerns about privacy, however overblown.