Blizz Finally Used the Nuclear Option

Yesterday reminded me of this classic movie scene:

War’s over, man.  Wormer dropped the big one.  More prophetic words have never been spoken.  I harken back to my post from 2 months ago.  Most important, I reference my cartoon:

Still no word about dupers, I hate being right

Blizzard took action against the largest number of EULA infractions than I’ve seen since Diablo 2.  Kotaku happened to post a conversation from a GM claiming over 100,000 accounts were suspended. That’s a ton of business they just flushed.  $1,495,000 bucks in revenue per month.  Everytime they post losses, they have historically pulled out the pink slips and sent their customer service division packing.  We should all feel more sorry for those that actually need to eat and put a roof over their heads than the guilds that just lost their main tank at 8/10 Mythic.

And Bossland posted an “official” statement on their website, I’ll post it here to protect your virgin eyes:

I’m more amazed Blizzard ran a sting operation and kept it all internal.

Internet lawyers started chasing internet ambulances all over the official forums, in search of someone to believe their half-assed non-Harvardish explanation between what Blizzard can legally do and the rights of the consumer.  Eventually they made their way over to the Bossland forums talking about class actions, the legality of the EULA, and how they were going to get their $15 back for this last month of subscription without taking Blizzard to the Supreme Court.  But in the end the majority of those caught seemed happy, almost relieved that their long addiction was forcibly at an end, with very few even caring about appealing their suspensions which, as luck would have it, were supposedly on a 100% decline status by order of the Blizzard Gestapo.

It was a choice between Paul Blart and Colonel Klink

Make no bones about it, Bossland will come back, the bot will be updated, because this is nothing but an arms race, a game of cat and mouse, and cops and robbers.  I think the next massive actual ban will be sometime next year, because all of these accounts are now on the final leg of Blizzard’s famous volcano, so one more infraction out of them and they’re history.  For those that are sitting in the corner thinking about what you’ve done, take heed.  Blizz Security is not going to take any prisoners next time.

How many of us knew that Blizzard lost a good portion of their legal case against Bossland last week in Germany?  I didn’t until recently, but it seems relevant.  Basically, for years now, Blizzard has been suing Bossland (the creators of Honorbuddy and other bot packages) in their home country of Germany.  This is what they’ve been doing to counter the bot wars in Warcraft, giving the money to the lawyers!  Apparently Bossland was ordered to not run a competing exchange for Diablo 3 gold, and as of May 7, this was overturned with Blizz being ordered to pay restitution for legal expenses.  Well, since the RMAH has been dead since March 2014, and everything has been account bound since in Diablo 3, better late than never, right?  So if Diablo 3 ever makes gold trading available again, at least the people of Germany are covered.

But this is significant because Bossland was essentially created by members the old Glider team, who developed and maintained what was largely considered the Go-To bot for Warcraft during Vanilla and Burning Crusade days.  The company lost it’s ass in legal battles with Blizzard in the US courts, over copyright infringement of all things.  Eventually that was overturned and Glider was simply removed from the market.  Given that the software sold over 100,000 copies in the time it was active and Warcraft hadn’t even really hit it’s stride yet, one can only BEGIN to speculate how many copies of Honorbuddy and it’s sister software packages for other games have sold and made their way into professional bot farms since.

And you were worried about that guy ninjaing your Felweed?

Upon losing their battle in the US, they did what any good entrepreneur did.  They consulted lawyers, told them what they were up to, and found the proper venue from which to distribute.  Sort of like the Chinese DVD copy farms that are parked off the West Coast of the United States.  There isn’t shit anyone can do about it unless they touch US soil.  Or all those gray area casinos that popped up years ago – the IRS had standing orders to arrest on sight, but nobody could touch them unless they were within US jurisdiction.  Almost the same thing here, Germany obviously provided certain intellectual property protections that Bossland was aware of prior to opening for business.  And Blizzard would have to go through the hassle of building a civil legal battle against them, while being an alien company having to locate patent attorneys in Germany that could understand what they were talking about – with language barriers and such, and I mean getting attorneys to understand “nerd-ese”.

I can’t imagine how much all this has cost both parties, because Bossland and Blizzard are still in the courts over everything else.  One thing’s for certain – Bossland has had to sell a shitload of licenses to fend this off, while Blizzard has had to spend millions themselves.  Resources anyone?  Why does WoD suck?  Because the lawyers got there first.  Har har har, I made a funny.

So why is this loss in the courts over gold for a game that doesn’t even trade it anymore mean anything?  Well the optics of it are horrible.  Sources within Blizzard have said that they’ve spent the past 30 days collecting account information of those within Warcraft using specifically Honorbuddy software.  May 13th was D-Day, when a rolling blackout worldwide suspended all those accounts for 6 months to indefinite time periods.  That’s 6 days after losing the court case.  Understand when I say “optics”, that means “How It Looks”.  Ok?  The optics say that Blizzard was anticipating this court case’s findings, and regardless of the outcome they intended to send a message to all of Bossland’s customers – “We see you”.

You see, Bossland has long said (see the memo above) that they have been beating Blizzard’s detection.  Ever wonder why after a patch certain raiders in your guild suddenly sucked or went MIA for a week?  Ever wonder why Azeroth felt bot-free for about a week after a patch?  It’s because with every patch, Bossland has had to reprogram their software to make it blind to Blizzard’s detection methods (Warden).  I have no freaking clue how they go about doing that, but it sounds like they essentially take Warden out back after every patch and cut his ratty little eyes out.  This gave the customers of Bossland a false sense of security, and the hubris was obviously too great, being unbeatable since 2010.  Or did Blizzard just stop giving a shit after Glider got closed?  I can’t say, but I would say that Blizzard has been in an incredible balancing act since the close of Wrath, when their IP began to wane in terms of sales and cash flow.  Let me back that up, shall we?

Here’s a graph demonstrating the Product Life Cycle stages, for those of you who’ve never taken any sort of college level business classes.

It’s like looking into a mirror! (Source: MMO-Champion)

That’s right, the game hit the point of decline about 3-4 years ago, and there’s NOTHING you can do to get it back.  This game is over 10 years old today, and while it has a major following, it’s entered the realm of Cheerios, a 12-pack of Coca-Cola, and a box of macaroni and cheese.  Of course there will always be those brief introductions of each expansion, but notice how fast they hit decline status… within months of introduction.  Not even the content patches between expansions give the game any sort of short term growth, the content between expansions is practically nothing but cost for them because it doesn’t do one thing to help in the quantity of subs.  Blizzard knows that the future of this game is going to be in releasing new content in the form of expansions and storyline, and it has been for a very long time.  Don’t expect anything revolutionary, because that would just be unreasonable for a game of this age and history.  But do expect them to release the content in the form of expansions quicker over time as the interest in the game continues to wane.  This is their cash cow – those one time purchases in the millions that result in 2-3 months of subscription time.  Beyond that, the 2-3 tiers of content between expansions are merely keeping the bills paid and developing new microtransactions and expansions.

What Was the Logic of This?

This brings up the next topic – what was the actual reason for the ban?  I’ve shown you that it ultimately wasn’t about revenge or retribution.  Blizzard has a long history of destroying botware, just not very quickly.  During Diablo 2, the chase was on to destroy Pindlebots and D2JSP, which it ultimately did.  Today the game is absolutely overrun with knockoffs of each as Blizzard has apparently decided that 15 years is too long to support a dead game.  With Warcraft, they’ve wiped out Glider through legal action and Honorbuddy through massive suspensions.  So they merely kept up their promise of eliminating cheats and hacks, if only partially.  Wait, partially?

Absolutely.  Look at the timing of this.  We are at the close of the first tier of WoD content.  The results are in – Blizzard isn’t able to keep the sub base and the verdict on Garrisons is in.  30% of the playerbase has said:  Eat a bag of dicks, Blizzard, your content is horrible and not worth paying for.  In fact, so awful, that they’ve returned to numbers that were below their worst point in MoP.  If this was a sales force, heads would be rolling and locks would be changed.  Personally, I can’t stand logging into Warcraft anymore, and 6.2 information tells me I’d be wasting my time bothering.  I’ve retained everything I can stand from GDKP runs, and will probably just wait for the next expansion.  I get no feeling of having fun, and for a longtime veteran player, that’s bad news for Blizzard.  By me logging in I’m doing it almost entirely out of habit.  While I’ve paid for the gametime via gold, I really don’t care to even log in.  So I won’t.  (More on this another time, I’m working on a deal right now that’ll probably end my hardcore gaming career.)

I’ve taken the liberty of reading dozens and dozens of ban reports, so I can say the following with extreme confidence.  With this content being so stale, most of the gathering bots aren’t even working.  Blizzard’s suspensions apparently didn’t hit anyone “wrecking your economy”.  Reason?  Not economically viable at this time since most people aren’t doing anything craft wise.  These are the botters I depend on to make my money, and I can say that lately they haven’t been posting many materials for sale at the normally very reasonable prices.

The people they DID ban in massive quantities were those using the bot for rotation assistance.  This reminds me of the ban from last winter, where people from Ownedcore lost their accounts overnight for using the same thing.  And many of these accounts in this wave proclaimed to be long time players of 6-10 years.  I’m sure Blizzard noticed this as well, and the best course of action was to realize that longtime accounts were cheating, maybe it wouldn’t be a smoking idea to give a permanent ban as a parting gift.  Afterall there are other titles they want them to buy, and press coverage was bad enough during the GM/HW grind.

The evidence of PvE use that evening was readily apparent, as Mythic guilds were missing several players and were busy recruiting for new people to join.  I even read reports of entire PvP guilds getting smacked down.  Now, these are “players” of the game, even if we use the word player with some literal license.  These aren’t people out farming thousands of stacks of ores and herbs, these are people who’ve apparently decided the game is at such a point that even being asked to do their rotations in raids has become too big of an ask.

But the PvPers are different.  For years and years, you couldn’t join a legitimate random battleground without realizing 2-3 minutes into the game that you were one of two people in the place who were actually controlling your character.  For a very long time Arenas have been dominated by people running scripts and getting an insanely competitive advantage in the form of interrupts.  These bots are able to randomize when they kick, and with surprising accuracy they could hit a healer within milliseconds of completing a cast.  That’s flat out the wrong application for a bot, and the people using this should have been struck dead by the hammer a long time ago.  But Blizzard never really bothered to investigate with any vigilance, they chose to just eliminate everyone in one fell swoop.  Even the makers of Honorbuddy seem to acknowledge that the bot is not meant to be used in Arenas, which is probably why it’s not named “Conquestbuddy”.  But like all things, players wanted that extra advantage to own and pwn, and now they get to pay the price.

If anyone has forgotten, Blizzard has only one IP that’s associated with E-Sports, and that’s Starcraft.  However, World of Warcraft was tossed out of MLG on it’s unbalanced ass a long, long time ago.  The hallmark of an E-Sport?  Well balanced and reasonable expectation of performance by a player actor.  Warcraft offers absolutely none of that, so they aren’t invited to any reindeer games and have to throw their own parties.  Warcraft is often the punchline of jokes in the E-Sport community, and it isn’t even regarded as an E-Sport.  “Warcraft an E-Sport?  Yeah, right!  And monkeys might fly out of my butt!”  If you want to get any respect in the E-Sport community, you have to take appropriate steps.

And closing accounts of cheats in PvP situations is critical, so this was one step in their direction towards gaining some respect back in the E-Sport community.

It’s demoralizing for those that want to learn how to do it, it’s frustrating for pros that are competing, and sponsors aren’t going to give money to any gaming company that treats the complaints of their PvP class of players like Marie Antoinette.  PvP is an arms race, and if everyone is doing it, then you can be assured that they’ll take every step however legit or illegit to get to what they want – total pwnage.

The memes for Marie were hideous

Arena PvP content really never goes away.  It’s been about the same thing since patch 2.0, with 0.5% being awarded Gladiator, and god comps, and people rolling the flavor of the patch classes.  It’s essentially stale as crap content, but of ALL the people that play this game, PvPers ask for the least content.  And I don’t count public PvPers as PvPers, I’m talking those that play for actual rating like PvEers play for progression.  So if you ignore people who are anxiously trying to get a sponsor and treat this like an E-Sport, whereas you the manufacturer regard it as an E-Sport but ignore everything that would make it an E-Sport, pretty soon you have to realize that you should be listening to your customer base because believing your own press is bad for business.

Frustrated consumers then take it out on the manufacturer in public.  Imagine being Lore or Bashiok?  Both are professional spin doctors for Blizzard.  They aren’t in community management, their actual job description is more public relations than anything else.  And given the heaps of shit that the PvP playing public has been throwing at Holinka, something had to be done.  Holinka doesn’t even go on Twitter anymore because the playerbase treats him like a bastard red-headed step-child with a death warrant.  I can’t say he doesn’t deserve it, he is the face of PvP content after all and his normal course of action is to run and hide under his bed.  Own it, you made it.  Nobody likes a loser that ducks the issues.

Conclusion

While this was an interesting step in the right direction, I question why gold sellers and dupers were going absolutely nuts after the ban and still allowed to run roughshod.  They haven’t touched them yet, and don’t give me that line that “it’s coming”.  I’ve reported dupers for years, but Blizzard doesn’t care about the economy in their games, they never have.  They provide the means, but rarely test it’s effects.  This is why I don’t believe a single utterance that this ban was for in-game economic reasons, hell those of us in the gold game made our millions off the botters.

So given what I’ve seen, the reasons for these suspensions were more of a lesson than anything else.  Blizzard isn’t interested at this point in shedding more subscriptions, because that’s just silly.  I think their ultimate intention was to send a message to Bossland’s customer base that the jig is up, there will be no more of this business, and everyone suspended is welcome to come back in 6 months and play again.  Sort of like the parent sending the kid to timeout in their room.  They might yell and scream, but they still love and feed the kid.

In my professional life, I’ve never told people who I do business with that “you’re an asshole, take your money somewhere else”.  But I have removed problem clients from my account list and let them know I was no longer working with them.  Those being people who cost too much time, don’t listen to my instructions, or tend to not treat me with the respect I deserve.  I’m under no obligation to do business or help anyone, I believe in reciprocal business relationships, not symbiotic or parasitic.  I always give people a second chance however, which I think was just smart business on their part.

I think Blizzard does believe in second chances as well.  Even though I don’t really respect the decisions they’ve made the past few years, I still like their titles, but I still don’t like having to pay for bad content.  Maybe I’ll fire up that private Vanilla server account again until the next expansion, I can get no flying zones there as well!  But realistically, I just don’t see the need to be another hamster on the wheel playing just because I like the gold game.  If I poured that energy into this next situation, I’d probably look at Warcraft as just another fond memory.

As always, I welcome your comments, provided they are well thought out and not part of the pitchfork and spoon crowd.

Thanks for stopping in!

10 responses to “Blizz Finally Used the Nuclear Option

  1. What do u think go to pass with tha duped vials/black panthers ? i think the economy is being abused by the dupers now.

    Like

      • I sold some items in ebay, tal rasha armors at the begin, not the bugged, 190 USD and some nice enigmas. I miss the runewords, dwarf star, nord trendizer, sazabi in a frost pally, good times =)

        Like

      • Yep, I look back to those days with fond memories. I sold everything except the dupes. JSP was my source at the time. Was amazing how much junk I could get for a 5 cent high rune that I could resell for $20-50.

        Like

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