Blizzard Pretends IP Made It Kill Fan Server

from the stop-lying dept

Blizzard, maker of World of Warcraft, has a long and dubious history when it comes to trying to twist intellectual property laws and requirements to be whatever they want it to be at the time. These instances have mostly revolved around using copyright in an attempt to stop people who use cheat-bots to play the company’s games, as well as those who make the bots. The actual tactics Blizzard uses in those cases, which chiefly revolve around twisting copyright into knots as never intended, can get lost because of the hatred most players have for those who game the gaming system.

But it’s a different story when it comes to Nostalrius, which was the name for fan-servers offering up a “vanilla” version of World of Warcraft to gamers who wanted to play the game without any of the expansion packs that Blizzard has released. Serving thousands of individual gamers, Blizzard decided the fan-server was a threat to its business and used trademark law to threaten those running it into shutting the whole thing down. Smart or not, Blizzard was within its rights to do this. Its explanation as to why, however, is absolutely dripping with bullshit and needs to be called out.

We’ll start with the now common refrain the company offered as to why it shut down the server, responding to public backlash for having done so.

Why not just let Nostalrius continue the way it was? The honest answer is, failure to protect against intellectual property infringement would damage Blizzard’s rights. This applies to anything that uses WoW’s IP, including unofficial servers. And while we’ve looked into the possibility – there is not a clear legal path to protect Blizzard’s IP and grant an operating license to a pirate server.

It’s difficult to see how this could possibly be true. Policing the trademark is indeed a requirement within trademark laws generally, but policing doesn’t offer a dichotomy between choosing to give up the mark or shutting the fan server down. There are other avenues that could have been explored, such as granting an inexpensive license to Nostalrius, which would allow them to continue as an official arm of Blizzard’s IP. That satisfies the requirement and doesn’t result in pissing off thousands of Blizzard fans. Keep in mind that Blizzard itself does not offer a similar vanilla version of WoW such as this. Working with the folks behind Nostalrius, it could have claimed to have done so through a third party. Problem solved. Why is it that those that use intellectual property so heavily, assets which are often designed to spur creativity, are the least creative when it comes to how to enforce that intellectual property?

As for why Blizzard doesn’t just offer up a similar service for gamers? Well:

We explored options for developing classic servers and none could be executed without great difficulty. If we could push a button and all of this would be created, we would. However, there are tremendous operational challenges to integrating classic servers, not to mention the ongoing support of multiple live versions for every aspect of WoW.

So, Blizzard, a rather large company, couldn’t figure out how to accomplish what a single fan server did? Please. And even if that were indeed true, why again not simply utilize what Nostalrius had already built and license it so that it was kosher? Why instead bring the legal hammer down and force the whole thing into shutdowns-ville?

Blizzard says they’re in talks with the folks behind the fan server now that it’s been shut down, but there was no reason to shut it down in the first place, aside from the misguided belief that pissing of your fans will get them to give you more money.

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Companies: blizzard

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Comments on “Blizzard Pretends IP Made It Kill Fan Server”

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Darkhog says:

Blizzard is also full of shit for another reason. They claim it would be impossible for them to make vanilla/classic server. This is as much true as it is that they’ve taken Nostalrius for IP reasons. Somehow Jagex doesn’t have any issues running “classic” Runescape servers alongside modern ones. If much smaller company can do it, so can Blizz.

Anonymous Coward says:

“And while we’ve looked into the possibility – there is not a clear legal path to protect Blizzard’s IP and grant an operating license to a pirate server. “

Bullshit. Any good lawyer, hell, I’m not a lawyer and I could do it, could write up a simple “yes, you can run old-school WoW on your server” piece of paper.

DividingByZero (profile) says:


The reason they did it is ego and is why they continue to fight against Legacy (Vanilla) servers. If they allow or provide these types of server environments, they are admitting that their current version of the game isn’t good or that they have gone astray.

They can grant anyone a license to use their IP. That reasoning was the most terrible bit of PR bullshit lies ever spewed. They control their IP, they can tell people they can use it and it doesn’t damage their control at all. They even have the paperwork to allow Chinese companies run the game, I am sure some simple modifications would have been enough to make it work for the Nostalrius team.

Ninja (profile) says:

Re: Ego

Honestly it depends on the person. I personally think vanilla wow required too much goddamn time. I personally liked Cataclysm as it allowed me to somewhat balance my spare time and the game. And I would probably play more of it today trying to actually do the raids and all the objectives. But things went on and there’s no way to play older versions of wow.

I would also try the Lich King expansion if I could but again, no official servers. It doesn’t mean they screwed up (I think they did with Pandaria and I left at that expansion) but there are probably those that disagree with me too.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Whiners

blizzard used to have 12 million active players, now they are down to about 3-4 million.

Amazing how pissing off your players by constantly telling them they are too stupid to know what they find fun and that only blizzard knows what is fun, ends up with most of those players leaving and stopping the giving of revenue to blizzard

Anonymous Coward says:

It's been done

“there is not a clear legal path to protect Blizzard’s IP and grant an operating license to a pirate server.”

And yet Daybreak Games (formerly Sony Online Entertainment) managed to find a way to do so.

“We have recently entered into a written agreement with Daybreak Game Company LLC that formally recognizes Project 1999 as a fan based, not-for-profit, classic EverQuest emulation project. The agreement establishes the guidelines that we as a project must follow, but it will allow to us continue to update the game without risk of legal repercussions.”

P T (user link) says:

in other words...

So Blizzard is not competent any longer.
They cannot even compete against the little guy.
Little guy is stealing their thought-matter, says Blizz. Lol.
Now, squashing little guys is keeping Blizz afloat.
Nothing creative about that.
Blizz, how long have you been squashing little people?
Competition and competence share the same root.
Blizzard prefers incompetence.
Screw Blizzard then.

Pronounce (profile) says:

This Happens From Time to Time

I’ve played WoW pservers. And every so often Blizzard shuts them down. The pserver operators will take a few months of needed vacation and once things cool down they’ll just put them back up.

The pserver players will have to live without their WoW fix, but I think they’ll survive. (Though some just wander around in a daze.)

ben_marko says:

Sort of right

I am very much in favor of classic servers – I myself would gladly pay for a TBC server if it were made available. But it is asinine to assume that any company (even a large one such as Blizzard) would be “okay” with licensing out their game when they have little or no control over its administration. That would expose them to a degree of liability that their lawyers would never allow.

It would be within their own best interests to simply build up classic servers on their end, there is obviously the market for it. Right on in saying that it would be comparatively easy to do so. They have the money and the manpower to make it happen.

nasch (profile) says:

Re: Sort of right

But it is asinine to assume that any company (even a large one such as Blizzard) would be “okay” with licensing out their game when they have little or no control over its administration. That would expose them to a degree of liability that their lawyers would never allow.

First, that’s what limitation of liability agreements are for. Second, lawyers have to do what their clients tell them, not the other way around.

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