The BattleTag Saga

Last week, I wrote about how a new feature in the latest Hearthstone game client means that one’s BattleTag will be shown to your opponents post-game. I questioned the wisdom of this feature (to put it lightly) and then embarked upon a journey to see exactly how difficult it might be to remove my BattleTag from my account.

I opened a ticket.

Since the patch to Hearthstone this week (version 1.0.0.4217), my BattleTag is now purposely made visible to any random opponent against whom I play. I do not wish for this information to be visible. In fact, I don’t actually want to have a BattleTag at all. Hearthstone is the only Blizzard game I currently play and even if I returned to World of Warcraft, I would not wish to use a BattleTag for that game.

I know BattleTags are required for Diablo III, but I assure you, I will never again play Diablo III and I do not play Starcraft II. As such, I would like for my BattleTag to be removed from my account so that it doesn’t show up against my random opponents in Hearthstone.

(The BattleTag FAQ does not state that BattleTags are required for Hearthstone, only for Diablo III, so I would assume that I could continue to play Hearthstone without a BattleTag.)

Thanks for your help!

My first response:

Hello there, this is Marcus,

I understand your concern, however if you want to play against another player there has to be some way to identify you, the Battlenet tag was created for this purpose, an anonymous way to be represented in game. No personal information is shown to the other player.

However I see that your BattleTag has your first name in it, so if your concern is your actual first name being show I recommend using the BattleTag change option On Battlenet. If you have already used the change we can offer one more change for you :–)

Should you ever find yourself again besieged by the forces of evil feel free to reply to this ticket. If you would rather speak with a representative directly, please use our phone support or Web Chat, Our contact information can be found at https://us.battle.net/support/en/ticket/status

Have a great day!

Marcus, d=(^_^)=b
Customer Services
Blizzard Entertainment

https://us.battle.net/support/en/ticket/status

First, that’s not true. My BattleTag’s portion before the random numbers was not my first name. Since I opened the ticket at the website, my real name was visible through this whole thing, so I don’t know what Marcus was smoking.

Second, this guy doesn’t actually understand my concern. At all. But it was pretty nice of him to offer me a free change if I needed it.

Here’s my response:

Hi Marcus,

Thank you for your reply. I still have a couple more questions, though. :)

1) Does this mean that a BattleTag is required in order to play Hearthstone? This information is not in the BattleTag FAQ. (It lists only Diablo III as needing one.) That’s to say, if I had an account without a BattleTag and got a Hearthstone beta invite on that account, would I then be forced to create a BattleTag before being able to play?

2) What if I would like to quit playing Hearthstone altogether due to this displaying of my BattleTag? If I no longer wanted to play either Hearthstone or Diablo III, I should not need a BattleTag. Is that correct?

3) If I no longer played Hearthstone or Diablo III, would it THEN be possible to remove my BattleTag? As it stands, I will never play Diablo III again and I am seriously considering never playing Hearthstone again due to this forced display of my BattleTag.

4) Last year, in September of 2012, Blizzard said an Invisible Mode would be implemented “in the coming months” for BattleTag/RealID stuff. Any update on this Invisible Mode?

Finally, I appreciate your offer for another change to my current BattleTag, although I believe I still have one available to me. That’s really kind of you, but it’s not my primary concern in terms of privacy. Still, it’s nice to be reminded that I have the option to change it.

One further bit of clarification:

“if you want to play against another player there has to be some way to identify you”

I don’t want to play against another player that I know. I want to play ranked and arena matches with random people. I have no desire to play against anyone I know.

Thanks very much, hoping to hear back soon.

So here was their next reply…

I took a look at the ticket for you and I wanted to let you know that the Battle Tag is required for playing Hearthstone and we don’t have a way to remove it from the account once it is added. That being said, while people can see your Battle Tag in Hearthstone the only way they would be able to see if you are online is if you accepted a friend invite from them.

I would be happy to help you out further if you have any further issues with this about this or any other issue, simply reply to this ticket. Or, if you prefer, you can contact us via Webchat. https://us.battle.net/support/en/article/contact They are available between the hours of 10 am to 6 pm, Pacific Standard Time, 7 days a week. Or please call our Account and Technical Services personnel at 1-800-592-5499, or 1-800-041-378 if you are in Australia. Best of luck!

Finally, I have some answers to my questions.

a) BattleTags are required for Hearthstone play, despite the FAQ stating only Diablo III requires a BattleTag.
b) This means that if I don’t want to play D3 or Hearthstone, I shouldn’t need a BattleTag.
c) However, they do not have a way to remove a BattleTag from an account once it’s been added. (I call bullshit, but whatever.)

So here’s what I sent back:

Hi Rotohiel, thank you for your response. You have adequately answered three of my questions. So, as I understand it, a Battle Tag is required for playing Hearthstone and once a Battle Tag is attached to my account, I cannot remove it, only change it.

If this is correct, then as of this latest build of Hearthstone, I will not be playing the game any longer. This is due to the fact that my Battle Tag is being displayed to the random players against whom I’m matched up. I feel this is an awful change. Were it reverted or if I were able to opt-out of this, that would be fine, but there’s no way to do so.

Let’s be clear: I do not wish to share my Battle Tag information with anyone. I do not even wish to HAVE a Battle Tag. I have no intention of chatting with anyone in any Blizzard game through this system. I understand that I would have to accept invitations in order to have people see my online status and the like, but I have no intention of using the system and do not want to have spammers spam me with Battle Tag invitations the way other users are suffering in other games.

My remaining question, which went unanswered, is how is the Invisible Mode coming along when it comes to RealID/BattleTag chat? Blizzard announced it would be implemented “in the coming months” more than 15 months ago. While this would not solve all the problems inherent with your current chat system, it would make things somewhat more palatable.

In short: I want to play Hearthstone, but I don’t want my Battle Tag being displayed. If it’s displayed, I won’t play. I would consider playing despite it being displayed if there were a properly implemented invisible mode in the Battle Tag chat system. Please advise on how these efforts are coming along.

Thank you very much for your time.

And their response:

I appreciate you taking the time to contact us! I’m Game Master Toyoshu, and I want to thank you for your exceptional patience which has allowed me to work with you on your issue! I hope that this finds you well and in good spirits. :)

Sorry to hear about your frustrations with the battle tag system and hearthstone. As for your last question, I am afraid that customer service has not be told about a timeframe in which the invisibility feature will be implemented. One thing I may suggest, is putting your feedback on our forums to help keep this topic on the radar of our developers so they can keep working on it.

I hope you have a wonderful weekend and Happy Holidays.

Thank you for the contact and if there is anything else we can do to make sure you have an excellent time in Azeroth, Sanctuary and beyond, let us know. :).

Of course, the other issue here is that posting on the Hearthstone forums also reveals your BattleTag. I felt obliged to bring that up.

Hi Toyoshu, thanks for your response.

I appreciate you letting me know that there have been no announced updates regarding the invisibility feature.

The last issue I want to mention is that posting on the Hearthstone forums ALSO reveals one’s BattleTag! Further, anyone who thinks this matter is important will also be reluctant to post on the forums. It’d be appreciated if you could inform the devs that there is a subsection of the playerbase that are really very much opposed to the recent change.

For more on why I (and others) have an issue with BattleTags being revealed, you can take a look at my blog entry about this: http://kurn.apotheosis-now.com/?p=2641

Thank you and have a great day.

And their final response:

Well met adventurer.

Thank you for sharing your concerns. However, as previously mentioned several times, Battletags do not reveal any personal information. That’s why they were chosen to represent players wherever a tag is required. We do not currently permit anonymous play or posting, and may not ever permit it. If you do not wish to share your feedback with Development, you are not required to post on the forums. Customer Support does not currently accept complaints or suggestions as we do not have any method of implementing changes – we are not Developers. I notice you have a WoW account. You may instead submit feedback via the lightbulb icon in the “submit a ticket” section, which will be sent straight to Development. I am sorry we cannot assist you further, but I hope this has clarified that Customer Support is not the correct department to assist you with changing how battletags are displayed.

So, after that many back and forth tickets, they still don’t actually grasp the concern I (and others) have about BattleTags being displayed. They say “we do not current permit anonymous play”, but they did, just a week ago! Sure, you saw the first bit of the BattleTag (minus the specific number), which, to be fair, was okay with me, but it’s the same difference as knowing someone’s name is José vs. José Theodore. One could be anyone, the other was an NHL goalie. Adding the last part of the BattleTag removes any kind of privacy regarding the BattleTag and opens you up to spammers, harassment and the like. Combined with a lack of news about the previously-promised Invisible Mode, I’m done playing Hearthstone. It was nice while it lasted. I really did enjoy the game and I’ll miss playing it, but it’s not worth it, to me, to open myself up to various methods of harassment using my BattleTag. I have never given out my BattleTag and, until there’s an overhaul of the entire system, I have no intention of giving it out.

Honestly, in these days where there’s all kinds of crap going on about privacy, you’d think a publicly traded company would be smarter about this sort of thing and wouldn’t give out identifying information without your permission. Alas, that is not the case.

 

8 comments

  1. Greg Gordon says:

    How is being forced into using a BattleTag on Battle.net any different that being forced to using a GamerTag on XboxLive? Or a PSN ID on Playstation? It’s there as a means of identification to the platform. There isn’t a way to obscure your Gamertag when you’re playing others on Xbox, and it’s visible in other people’s “Recently Played Against” list. It serves as a way to friend new people, report people for abuse, etc.

    Making BattleTags a “requirement” for D3, wasn’t so much a requirement per se, but I believe it served as an opportunity to begin transitioning ALL Battle.net users over to BattleTags. Hearthstone new requires it, no doubt Heroes of the Storm will require it. I wouldn’t be surprised when eventually it’s required to set one up to create a new Battle.net account period.

  2. Kurn says:

    Greg – (I don’t think I’ve EVER called you Greg before…) You bring up a good point — other platforms have been doing this for years, so why shouldn’t Blizzard?

    One difference here is that Blizzard is changing the expectations in the middle of things. We had WoW. Then we had RealID. Then we got Diablo III and BattleTags. RealID and BattleTags serve essentially the same purpose: identification to the system and communication between people on different servers and in different games. Before the introduction of RealID, the only way people could track you down in WoW was by knowing your character, faction and server. RealID and BattleTags changed all of that. More, it got changed mid-stream, if you will. There has been absolutely no expectation of needing to use RealID — there’s even an option to disable it in your account settings.

    BattleTags, to date, have been used to identify you in D3 — public games kind of necessitated that. BattleTags, in D3, serve the same sort of function as your character name/faction/server in WoW, given the way group content works in that game. However, BattleTags go one step further than that — you can’t log out of your BattleTag and go do something else without people on your list knowing about it. The lack of an Invisible mode (or any kind of sophistication whatsoever in the system) makes this even more ridiculous.

    For D3, I suppose that, due to its cross-platform play, it may not be a big deal (if, indeed, BattleTags are used on those other platforms), because the expectation on consoles is that your gamer tag is used to identify you. However, in WoW, that is not the case.

    Even in Hearthstone, up until last week, that wasn’t the case. If, say, my BattleTag was “Whisper#1875″ (which it wasn’t), people would see me as “Whisper”. I was okay with that, because there was no way anyone could guess the random, four-digit number that would come after the name.

    The expectations, until this point, perhaps excluding D3, is that if you want to give out your information to someone, you *may* do so, but you are not forced to do so. (Again, excluding D3.) Hearthstone’s beta has been going along just dandily without the ability to discover people’s BattleTags.

    My best guess is that this is coming in because Blizzard knows that if you play a game with your friends, you’re all more likely to keep playing that game. Without a guild system, like WoW, without a full-fledged chat client, like WoW, what do they have left? This. This is what they have left — a clumsy system to collect the tag of the player against whom you last played.

    What’s to stop people from playing, conceding and then collecting vast numbers of valid BattleTags and selling them to gold spammers? What’s to stop spammers from doing that themselves? BattleTag invite request spam is a growing problem, as I understand it, but it’s not something I’ve had to deal with due to the fact that I no longer play D3 and now won’t play Hearthstone.

    The system is clunky and inelegant and, since there’s no longer a way to opt-out of it, I simply choose not to take part in it anymore. If they can choose to change the way information is given out, I can choose to stop using their games that insist upon it.

    Ultimately, I feel that a BattleTag is a piece of personal information that I don’t want other people using to identify me. I am fine with the system identifying me to itself as Whisper#1875 (or whatever), but there’s no real, compelling reason for other players to know that about me unless I WANT them to know that about me.

  3. Sol says:

    Would it be worth creating an account with a fresh battletag (as you don’t need Hearthstone to post on the forums) to air your concerns? I quite like the battletag system for keeping in touch with friends, but like you I don’t want my battle tag available to everyone I play.

    I understand why it came in – people wanted a way to contact the last person they played, and there was no way to do anything to get that, so I know it was a feature asked for on the forums. It is a very poor solution without a way to opt out.

  4. Greg says:

    I think people need to get away from the mindset of “The purpose of BattleTags for game X, Y, Z” and realize that BattleTags are for Battle.net. Blizzard wants to grow Battle.net as a platform. To facilitate that, they needed a way for folks to communicate across the platform, across games. And so RealID was born. Except, no one liked RealID. No one liked that they had to provide (for most people) their email address to their gamer buddies. I can agree with that, I might want to keep in touch with you, but I don’t necessarily want to give you my email address either.

    And so BattleTags were born. BattleTags serves as a way for you to friend people on Battle.net, without divulging your real name, email address, mother’s maiden name, pet’s name, favorite whatever, etc. It’s impersonal.

    My 2c is that BattleTags are not “personal information”. A BattleTag is no more personal that a Twitter handle. If you don’t give a shit if people know your Twitter handle, why give a shit if people know your BattleTag?

  5. Kurn says:

    Sol – I do have a fresh battle.net account that I created, to see if (as Greg mentioned in his first comment) a BattleTag would be needed to be created at that time (which it isn’t). I’ll see if I can go post in the HS forums about this. Thanks for the idea. :)

    As to how it came to be, are you serious? People on the forums demanded this? Ugh. Assuming that’s the case, I obviously have nothing in common with them besides perhaps “enjoying Hearthstone”, thus have absolutely no reason to want to talk to them. SIGH.

    Greg – While I’m sure you’re right about their intentions for Battle.net, let’s look at the Blizzard BattleTag FAQ, then.

    https://us.battle.net/support/en/article/battletagfaq

    What is a BattleTag™?

    A BattleTag nickname is a player-chosen handle that identifies your Battle.net account in Blizzard Entertainment games, websites, community forums, and more. Similar to Real ID, BattleTags give players on Battle.net a way to find and chat with friends they’ve met in-game, form groups, and stay connected across multiple Blizzard Entertainment games.

    BattleTags are required for Diablo III play, where they are used to publically identify players in groups or when chatting in-game, as well as on the Diablo III forums.

    Ignoring the fact it hasn’t been updated to include Hearthstone or Heroes, my major concern in their explanation is that they’re using it for two separate purposes: a) to identify my Battle.net account in and on Blizzard properties, b) to find, chat and group with with in-game friends, while staying connected across all Blizzard games.

    I am fine with the system going “Oh, okay, that’s Kurn’s account, Whisper#1875. Perfect.”

    I am less fine with that same system saying to someone I just defeated in Hearthstone “Hey, by the way, that player was Whisper#1875!”

    As a means of basic identification, I think it’s okay, providing that there’s no way to contact me through it — or even to initiate attempts at contact. However, they’ve merged those two purposes. As such, there is a section of the population, myself included obviously, that feels that the BattleTag we were forced to create in order to play various games (D3 in my case) should only be revealed if and when we choose to do so.

    And that’s really the difference. I can *choose* to show my Twitter handle everywhere. Before I got on Twitter, I thought about it and considered the various pros and cons to having a public Twitter versus a private Twitter. I also considered what my options were in case I was harassed, which is, sadly, something a lot of women need to consider (lest we end up getting harassed the way Anita Sarkeesian has been). To answer your question more directly, if I don’t give a shit if people know my Twitter handle, why give a shit if people know my BattleTag?

    A BattleTag is an avenue towards real-time communication and observation. A Twitter handle is an avenue towards limited staggered communication and observation. It’s limited in the sense that you get 140 characters per tweet and limited in the sense that no one knows what websites I’m on, what TV show I’m streaming from Netflix, etc. BattleTags are an avenue of real-time communication (where you can chat in real-time with others), while showing all KINDS of information about the other person — alts on different factions and realms, for example.

    As soon as they starting GIVING people information that can act as an avenue towards being able to converse with me or observe me in real-time, when it crossed the line for me.

    Do I have to accept the invitations? No. But I consider it enough of an infringement on my previous expectations of privacy to render the game unplayable for me.

    Particularly given how terrible the system itself is, in terms of lack of real controls, useful settings and, of course, an Invisible Mode, I feel uncomfortable playing a Blizzard game that advertises my personal identification tag to anyone I get randomly paired up with.

  6. Kurn says:

    Sol – Well, poop. I tried posting in the HS forums and got:

    You need a BattleTag and a trial game license or a full license to post on the official Hearthstone forums.

    So I created a new, throwaway BattleTag on that new account and got the same error, because the new account isn’t in the beta. Sigh. At least we know. :)

  7. Verbosity says:

    “A BattleTag is an avenue towards real-time communication and observation. A Twitter handle is an avenue towards limited staggered communication and observation. It’s limited in the sense that you get 140 characters per tweet and limited in the sense that no one knows what websites I’m on, what TV show I’m streaming from Netflix, etc. BattleTags are an avenue of real-time communication (where you can chat in real-time with others), while showing all KINDS of information about the other person — alts on different factions and realms, for example.”

    Not really. You have to accept their invitation to have ANY contact with them. Which makes it far, far less intrusive than a Twitter account. Sure, if you accept their invitation they can talk to you, know when you’re online, etc. Just don’t accept invitations from strangers and its all irrelevant.

  8. Kurn says:

    Verbosity – You say it’s all irrelevant, but your very own post looking for a new guild from October 25th (just under two months ago) is in opposition to what you say here. Emphasis is mine:

    Feel free to leave a comment on this thread. Don’t bother with guild spam messages, write me a note. Include battle tag and website, I will app if I like what I see and be in touch with you on Battle Tag if I have questions. I do not post my Battle Tag because I get too many guilds adding me that are exactly not what I’m looking for (4 day, 25 man guilds on PvP realms, for example, are the worst offenders).

    If it’s so “irrelevant”, as your comment here claims, why not give people your BattleTag? :)

    Honestly, I don’t care what you personally do or don’t do with your BattleTag. The way I see it, it’s a piece of personal information that should never be given out without my express knowledge and permission. That’s how I view it, I’m not alone in it and I just want people to be aware of what’s going on. You (and others and Blizzard) are welcome to agree or disagree, but saying one thing here while saying something else elsewhere is a little silly, no? :)

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