Friday, December 11, 2009

Privacy Implications of SOE's Facebook Push

Turbine and Blizzard are promoting their new Twitter feeds with a variety of raffles. Ironically, raffles actually discourage players from making an effort to promote the feeds - more followers mean more competition for the same small number of prizes.

By contrast, SOE's new Facebook/Twitter campaign will hand out the prizes - up to $7.50 in Station Cash item store credit - to EVERY SINGLE PLAYER of EQ1, EQ2, and Free Realms (not just the ones who participated) if the respective Facebook and Twitter pages reach very attainable goals by February. Now players have a strong incentive to talk up the pages to their in-game friends, advertise the game to their out-of-game friends, and even sample item shop goodies that they'd previously been ignoring (at no real money cost to SOE).

(Incidentally, your Station Cash balance applies to your entire Station account, not individual games. If you don't already have one, it might be worth taking five minutes to start a Free Realms character on your existing account so you can double up on the prizes.)

The catch is that Facebook's new privacy policy makes your name and your fan pages un-hideable public information. By clicking that "become a fan" button, you may be irrevocably declaring your association with MMORPG's to potential employers. Unfortunately, many non-players still associate MMORPG's with addiction and all-night marathons that leave players too exhausted to work. There is an unfair but real possibility that someone who participates in this promotion will be denied a job because of it.

In the long run, perhaps we're all better off if more players (who DON'T reinforce the stereotype) "come out" about their status as MMORPG players. For any one specific individual at the moment, though, there is a very real possibility that they might someday regret having pushed that button - consenting to, but not necessarily understanding the consequences.

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