World of WarcraftWord to the wise: making money from running unauthorized World of Warcraft servers isn't a great long-term business plan.
Obvious though that might seem, it perhaps comes as news to one
Alyson Reeves -- doing business as Scapegaming -- who this week found
herself owing Warcraft developer Blizzard the impressive sum of
$88,594,589, in a default judgement handed down by the California
Central District Court.
Reeves' company was running an unauthorized, emulated World of
Warcraft server, allowing players to circumvent the $12-15 monthly
subscription fees Blizzard normally charges for its game. Such private
servers often include superficially attractive gameplay tweaks like
faster accrual of gold or character skills, or start new players with
maxed-out characters, an appealing option for those looking to explore
the game's highest-level content or indulge in no-holds-barred
player-vs-player battles. And some, like Scapegaming's, make ends meet
by accepting monies for in-game items or benefits.
Blizzard, somewhat unsurprisingly, looks down upon this sort of
thing, considering it copyright infringement -- and the courts have
tended to agree. Back in 2002, in what would become an important test
case for the then-new Digital Millennium Copyright Act, Blizzard sued
the developers of an open-source alternative to its Battle.net server,
"bnetd." Even though bnetd was created by emulating and imitating
Blizzard's server rather than ripping it off directly, its developers
lost the suit.
Don't feel too bad for Reeves, though. According to the court
ruling, her company netted a staggering $3 million in profits from its
unauthorized server business. And who knows -- maybe she can get the
whopping $85 million in statutory damages reduced on appeal.