Blizzard Responds to Nostalrius Drama

The talk of the town today has been Blizzard’s response to Nostalrius. Let’s take a look at what they have to say, and then I’ll address a few key points.

[su_expand more_text=”Expand the rest of Blizzard’s Response” height=”300″ less_text=”Read less…” text_color=”#2a2a2a” link_color=”#011948″ more_icon=”icon: file-text-o” less_icon=”icon: eject”]We wanted to let you know that we’ve been closely following the Nostalrius discussion and we appreciate your constructive thoughts and suggestions.

Our silence on this subject definitely doesn’t reflect our level of engagement and passion around this topic. We hear you. Many of us across Blizzard and the WoW Dev team have been passionate players ever since classic WoW. In fact, I personally work at Blizzard because of my love for classic WoW.

We have been discussing classic servers for years – it’s a topic every BlizzCon – and especially over the past few weeks. From active internal team discussions to after-hours meetings with leadership, this subject has been highly debated. Some of our current thoughts:

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.

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 what can we do to capture that nostalgia of when WoW first launched? Over the years we have talked about a “pristine realm”. In essence that would turn off all leveling acceleration including character transfers, heirloom gear, character boosts, Recruit-A-Friend bonuses, WoW Token, and access to cross realm zones, as well as group finder. We aren’t sure whether this version of a clean slate is something that would appeal to the community and it’s still an open topic of discussion.

One other note – we’ve recently been in contact with some of the folks who operated Nostalrius. They obviously care deeply about the game, and we look forward to more conversations with them in the coming weeks.

You, the Blizzard community, are the most dedicated, passionate players out there. We thank you for your constructive thoughts and suggestions. We are listening.

J. Allen Brack[/su_expand]

Obviously there’s PR speak going on here. The “we hear you” and “we too feel this way” and “even I’m here because I love classic” or “we’ve looked into it and its hard” stuff is a tad sycophantic. But that’s all there because of what follows.

Blizzard has to protect their IP, otherwise they lose their rights. That’s the part everyone with even a whisper of a clue knew because that’s how intellectual property law works. I don’t think that comes as a shock to anyone, nor is any of that why people are talking about about this release. The real reason….

Pristine Realms

Here’s where people are going a bit nuts and not only reading waaaay too far into this, but also missing the mark entirely. First — no, this does not mean Blizzard is missing the point. They know you want vanilla. It’s at least a public acknowledgement that there has been thought to a solution.

I believe people underestimate what a big deal it is to support a classic server. Blizzard employs an army of customer service representatives just to handle a game that has a consistent experience. Imagine if the customer support had to be (1) trained and (2) taking the time to manage multiple version. You think they’re slow now?

Looking at the only major example of classic servers out there right now, we see that even EverQuest hasn’t been able to recreate a true “classic” experience. Their “progression” servers or “time-locked” servers all have modern conveniences built into them. They have major updates they simple can’t remove.

People don’t REALLY want Vanilla

At least I don’t. I don’t miss that version of WoW. I think modern WoW is way better. When it comes to a themepark, I prefer the convenience. If I’m looking for an experience that takes commitment and dedication then I want more than questing and gear treadmills from that investment. I’ve done the ‘first to kill all the raid bosses’ thing on 3 different WoW servers. I’ve done the competitive play. That’s not fun for me. What’s fun is the journey, and that’s why I dabble in EverQuest classic servers, but WoW lacks that journey. WoW has -never- been about the journey.

Blizzard knows most people would agree. Most people want modern WoW and its conveniences. When I say most, I mean enough that it doesn’t make financial sense for them to do classic. If classic meant way more money, then as a public company seeking to make profit they’d do it. They’re not in the business of testing something publicly just to see if it works. They’re crunching data, and I bet you the data shows it’s not worth their time. If they wanted to have a classic experience, it would have already been done.


  • I disagree with you keen,

    Nostralius had over 150,000 Active players logging in every week, and now Kronos has thousands and thousands of people waiting in Queues to play. There is a HUGE market for vanilla, if Blizz did it they could have a million play on those servers.

    WoW had hard HARD challenging leveling that took months just like Everquest did.

    People will continue the fight.

  • Except that it has made financial sense for Daybreak to do so with EverQuest and EverQuest II as well as Jagex to do so with RuneScape. If you read that article about RuneScape, it has worked out very well for them, while Daybreak wouldn’t keep doing it if it didn’t get people subscribed.

    “WoW has -never- been about the journey.”

    I don’t even know what you mean by that, but Vanilla WoW was very much about a journey, being very much developed in the EverQuest mold. Your statement almost seems to be saying that you prefer the WoW without the journey, because that is what the convenience subdued. So your journey loving credientials are pretty suspect, Mr. Journey McJourneyface. Take that! (insert emoticon that indicates some kidding in that last paragraph.)

    @bartillo – Mark Kern being for something makes me want to question if I should be as well. His credibility is very low.

  • @Wilhelm: If it makes sense financially then they’ll do it. It made sense for Daybreak and Jagex. I don’t think it does for Blizzard. As for the journey stuff, sure Vanilla had more journey than contemporary WoW, but vanilla’s journey was quest grinds, rep grinds, and gear treadmills. Shockingly the same is true for contemporary, but with way more convenience.

    @Bartillo: Mark Kern is a joke. I’ll just reiterate that if they wanted to do it, they’d do it. Blizzard exists to make money. 150,000 or 1 million players doesn’t matter. It all boils down to would this make money to justify. They’re not just sitting back there saying, “all these people want this and we’re not going to give it to them just because!”

  • “People don’t really want WoW vanilla”.

    Yep, that’s what I’ve been telling myself and have been trying without much success to explain to other people by using more generic term (the whole market has changed point). While people may not like the direction WoW has taken, I believe they like many little quality of life changes that have been made over the years, changes they wouldn’t give back for a full vanilla experience. Vanilla was a drag in many regards and gigantic time commitment. There were many changes over the years in many games that to ease both points, changes that are now more or less expected in any modern MMO.

    That’s why I believe a full vanilla server wouldn’t be such a monumental hit. To make it attractive to the average player, they would need to put efforts in testing and adapting these quality of life changes to the vanilla experience which basically means maintening and supporting a second code line. This takes a lot of resources and you can’t expect the employees to be fully proficient and agile with both lines; at least that’s my experience working in the software industry. Some changes are easy to deal with (eg : Group Finder, that’s more than a quality of life change, it’s a whole feature/technology that could be turned off in theory), but others would require a lot of efforts and time (eg : class skills, talents, questing parameters, anything that changed on a patch to patch basis).

  • For Runescape we have Runescape 3 and Runescape 2007.. And both have seperate Dev teams, seperate code, seperate everything.

    They are seperate games, Blizzard could do that as well.

  • Realigning those types of resources isn’t that simple. The scope is just not comparable between Daybreak/Jagex and Blizzard. Could they do it? Yes, of course. But to justify that type of massive change would require data that deemed it profitable and a worthy venture.

  • Vanilla WoW was very much about the journey for me. I barely hit 60 only a few months before Burning Crusade launched. I really never raided much at all until Lich King. I think I ran Kara maybe a handful of times and managed get in some heroics here and there (they were pretty tough in the BC days). The reason I would like them to bring back a vanilla or “vanilla-like” server is so I can experience that journey again. You’re are right with respect to the journey, or leveling aspect, now regarding WoW. It’s a joke.

    I agree that people don’t really want vanilla. Maybe some do. But, like I said in the forums, it isn’t about the specific vanilla content or classes or abilities or what have you. I just want the journey to be fun, engaging and challenging again, like it was during vanilla. If they can create a “pristine server” that allows that atmosphere, I will be all over it.

  • @Keen

    That’s not how IP works at all actually. Maybe try not to sound so sure if you don’t know what you’re talking about.

    It is SOMEWHAT how TRADEMARK law works, but it’s actually not as strict as you would think. It has to be direct competition in the same market that your trademark applies and you have to not come to some kind of licensing or other agreement, in which case you must fight to protect your trademark or lose it.

    People keep saying “it wouldn’t be a hit” but theres actual evidence of it being a hit that people seem to just be glossing over. This server had more than a hundred thousand people logging in per week and it’s hardly the only one. There’s many itches the current game isn’t scratching.

    Heard of Ragu? It’s a kind of pasta sauce, they released many different kinds of pasta sauce to attract different kinds of customers. Appealing to a niche increases retention who will LEAVE if you aren’t giving them what they want. The real reason Blizzard likely will never do Vanilla is they simply don’t have backups of code that old and it would take too much effort by far to go back to it for retention purposes. Theyd basically be trying to recreate a game that doesn’t exist. This makes their takedown even stupider as they’re removing something that appeals to people even though they can’t provide an alternative at cost that people would flock to.

    Also I’d think this blog would be the last place to herp derp it’s way into saying “people don’t REALLY want old versions/stuff.” what with your history of leaping back into EQ and how you treat the expansion content as it was released on progression servers.

  • Sorry Keen but a lot of people don’t believe the modern versions of MMO’s even hold a candle to the past vanilla / release experiences. If people didn’t want these, there wouldn’t be ‘classic’ servers like Nost, P1999, and Uthgard which cover the big three drivers in MMO history. Heck, Kronos has been beaten to a pulp with players trying to jam into it to the point they’re expanding at least another complete server rollout.

    Since I mentioned Uthgard, it’s getting a complete reboot in two weeks with a beta release of a much more classic patch timeline than it has been. This is *the* pvp experience that you won’t get in other games, especially the modern Frankenstein version..

    A lot of people, even if they’re not 18 anymore with unlimited playtime, want something that is meaningful and not the McMMO garbage that the entire industry has fled and clung to for dear life. Some would say that’s due to a lack of innovation, but they’ve been adding so many features that a lot of people just don’t want. Add on to that the layer of cash grabs in everything these days, and it’s a completely cheap, disposable experience.

  • This reads so much like Blizzard white knighting, it’s embarassing. Telling people that they don’t really want vanilla, when they are playing vanilla right now is condencending as fuck.

    I think this is a clear sign that people don’t actually want EQ progression servers as well, we should close those down too. Oh wait…..

  • Current WoW has about 4 mio players who played the last 30 days. Over 100 mio players have played WoW at some point on time.

    Nostalrius has had 150k players who played the last 10 days. Over 800k had played Nos at some point in time.

    Nos had no advertisement
    Nos was illegal
    Nos was a game from 2004!

    Keen, really, I like your blog. But to assume that an official classis server would be unprofitable is absurd.

    By the way, I, too, struggled for a long time about the question whether I was just nostalgic. Now I play on Kronos. And despite the 2000 – 45min – log-in queues: I love it.

  • You discount human nature far too easily. Countless businesses of all sizes and kinds have been led into poor commercial choices by the whim, hubris, pride or plain stubbornness of individuals of influence. You talk about Blizzard as though it’s some kind of natural force or self-regulating market. it’s not. it’s a single business and single businesses, even huge ones, make poor or even catastrophic business decisions all the time.

  • Keen i have been watching your blog for many years now.

    In fact it was YOU that made me join the private server community when you released some articles on the emerald dream server at some point.

    Seeing you shift that much is heart-breaking really.
    I am sorry but i did play on nost for 4 months and i was loving it so much that i would gladly pay for a 10-year sub to wow if i was to play vanilla or tbc again officially.
    I just realized that i was just NOT NOSTALGIC. There was magic. IT USED TO BE A SOCIAL GAMING EXPERIENCE for Christ sake. I made so many in-game friends in nost in 3 months that i would never ever make in current wow in years.

  • @Jim: I’m not shifting at all. I have always maintained a love for private servers (i’ll add when they are run properly). I’m not saying Blizzard shouldn’t. I’m saying the reason they haven’t isn’t because they can’t or they don’t want to. I think they’ve done what any business their size would do: They ran the numbers and decided against it. Just because I personally like modern WoW more than vanilla doesn’t mean I’m against their being a vanilla server. I do believe most (not all) of the people championing a vanilla server don’t truly remember or want that experience.

    @Danath: I’m not a lawyer, and I don’t pretend to be one, but I’m pretty sure everything I’ve learned in both academic and practical business experience has been correct. If you do not protect a trademark, a patent, or intellectual property when publicly challenged then it diminishes your ability to protect it later. We’ve run into it where I work right now.

    @Bhagpuss: I’m assuming their already-proven successful organization is run by intelligent people. If my assumptions are wrong, disregard everything I’ve said. 🙂 If this were Daybreak, I’d be hesitant to vocalize my assumptions, but this is Blizzard.

    @Nils: Nostalrius was also FREE. Please make sure you read what I’m saying carefully. I am not saying it would be unprofitable. I’m saying Blizzard has likely deemed it not WORTH IT ENOUGH at this time. You don’t have to think about this one long and hard. There’s a motive for Blizzard not doing this. What is their motive? It’s either to save now, or gain more later with another strategy.

    @Tithian: If trying to be level-headed has become white knighting, then saddle me up and give me a lance. I’m riding in!

  • You can boil Blizzard’s argument down like this:

    1. It’s not worth the effort, financially, for us to provide Vanilla servers. We could do it, but we can make more money doing something else.
    2. We don’t ACTUALLY have to shut down Nostalrius to protect our IP since we’re not protecting a trademark, but our lawyers have told us we should do it just to be safe, so we’re going to.
    3. We’ve considered doing some half-assed hybrid approach to true Vanilla servers, but it probably won’t happen unless the numbers make sense.

    For me, WoW’s inevitable slide into irrelevance has only been compounded by Blizzard’s inability to recognize what made WoW such a compelling experience to begin with: distinction (classes and talents), challenge (emergent and organic) and social opportunity (treating your groupmates like people instead of vaguely sentient NPCs). WoW has lost all of that. Vanilla had it. There’s a reason Nostalrius was such a resounding success and it wasn’t because it was free. Don’t kid yourself.

  • You keep saying ‘they ran the numbers’ as if that’s some point in their favor. This is the same company that ran the numbers on HotS, yes? The same one that ran the numbers and still released Cata/MoP/WoD, right? You sound like you believe Blizzard is omnipotent and that if they look into something, their decision based on that look must be correct. Their recent history has shown that if anything, whenever Blizzard ‘runs the numbers’, they get it painfully wrong (Next item being the Warcraft movie that’s very likely to bomb).

    They are dead wrong on vanilla popularity, and have been for a long, long time. Hopefully this pristine garbage doesn’t happen, real vanilla servers do, and we can all enjoy the far superior version of WoW for months of time once again.

  • @Keen

    Needs to be a likelihood of confusion. If there isn’t, there’s no diminishment of ability to protect it. Thats why you have patents from 1980 being used against companies now even though they languished for ages,

    The reason this applies only to Trademark is because of likelihood of confusion, and even then that’s more limited than people think. “failing to protect an idea” only results in you losing it if there’s actual risk involved in that thing becoming ubiquitus. For example, Kleenex was actually the name of a company, but it becomes generic for what people call tissues and thus no more trademark on Kleenex due to becoming ubiquitous. Patents apply to specific expression and work for their lifetime. IP is far too broad a catagory as it covers many different things such as patents copywrite and trademark and other intangible assets so I can’t comment on everything individually.

  • I’ll just say I disagree with all of this. That might be a first for me in my years reading your blog.

  • I hope you realize why Nostalrius was “free”, as in not charging for access. It doesn’t take business acumen to understand how fast Blizzard would have any private servers charging for access (and thus directly making money) shut down. It would be measured in hours.

    When did the McMMO feature bus become a good thing here?

  • Are you really enjoying the game play more than you did way back in vanilla?

    I know that wasn’t the case for me the last time I played. I wonder if that is the case for most people who read your blog?

    There was something magical about those days, something that felt genuinely fantastical. Now you are posting about having a computer program run the auction house to gather virtual money for you and somehow that equates to “fun”.

    I think that sort of play style is likely why vanilla WoW is no longer appealing for you. What you are describing sounds more like compulsively accumulating virtual reality tokens than actually playing a character within a story.

  • @Ganktaron: As a COMPLETE NOOB, Vanilla was amazing. I’d say vanilla back then was more fun than playing today. HOWEVER — I am not a noob anymore. Going BACK to that is less fun to me than going to modern WoW. Does that make sense? I wouldn’t go back to an experience that I deem a one-time event.

    Contrasting that to EQ, I can go back and still feel the same way. Totally subjective and my preference.

  • I guess it does make sense from a calloused POV.

    I remember the first time I flew over Booty Bay and all I was interested in doing was spinning the camera around 360 degrees in amazement how they had digitally captured a world which I could view at any angle, …astonishing back then, but inferior graphically today.

    Still there seemed to be more complexity in some aspects then like the back and forth, multi-hour PvP fights in Alterac Valley where 6 hours in we were still summoning NPC giants and wolfpack riders to turn the tide to our side.

    I think those days are long gone, a casualty of the attempt to maximize token rewards per unit time.

  • …keep in mind if there was a group of players that wanted to recapture those long fights, I would jump back in without hesitation, the promise of token rewards notwithstanding.