January 8, 2010

Blizzard taking account security seriously with mandatory authenticators?

WoW.com is reporting that Blizzard may ratchet up account security by requiring the use of authenticators on ALL accounts.
WoW.com has learned through trusted sources close to the situation that Blizzard is giving serious consideration to making authenticators mandatory on all accounts. According to our sources, while this policy has not been implemented yet and the details are not finalized, it is a virtually forgone conclusion that it will happen.
I think this is a great move for World of Warcraft.  The negatives are limited, while the positives gained are far reaching. After the initial implementation spike in support requests die down, this will dramatically reduce support costs in the long run as hacked account support stops clogging the support queues.  Players will gain peace of mind that their accounts are secure and that should something go wrong, Blizzard's support will be able to resolve it in a timely manner.

However, there is one giant hurdle that needs careful planning: getting players on board.

The first part of this is "cost to the player".  As I stated above, the support costs are going to rise after initial implementation as players get acquainted with their new dongles, but the long term savings in support should be measurable for Blizzard.  That savings forecast should be used to subsidize the cost of the dongle for players.

The second part is more complicated.  With mandatory authenticators, it will be a lot harder for players to maintain their accounts.  As Cataclysm approaches, this could put many returning players off.  Current active players could face days of potential lockout if an authenticator is lost.  These concerns need to be taken seriously or this could bottleneck WoW.

In WoW's case, I think this is a good move.  However, its a limited case in the MMOG market.  Other subscription MMOGs would not be able to pull this off unless it was included at launch and I'm fairly certain it is well outside the reach for Free-2-Play games.  Regardless of what Blizzard decides, it will be an interesting case study to see how the blogosphere and WoW community react to the idea.