Blizzard Bans Top World Of Warcraft Players For Trading Dungeon Runs For Cash

It's one thing to run a friend through a dungeon that might be a little too rough for them because you're a Cool Pal. It's something else entirely to do it for a random and ask for real money in return. In World of Warcraft, the latter is unacceptable, and Blizzard has started banning top players for it.

According to PCGamesN, it's become fairly commonplace for the cream of the game's crop to boost players with less time (but more money) on their hands through tough dungeons. The boost-ee gets loot and achievements, and the boost-er gets real cash. Everybody wins... sorta. Blizzard, however, says they're done turning a blind eye to these practices.

"We've recently taken action against a number of accounts that were actively participating in and/or advertising the sale of in-game raid or dungeon clears in exchange for real-world currency," community manager Bret "Ornyx" Forbus wrote in a forum post. "Such behaviour is a clear violation of the World of Warcraft Terms of Use."

"Of the players affected, many were members of top raiding guilds," he added. "We want to be clear that everyone we've taken action against had illustrated full knowledge and intent to violate the Terms of Use. Going forward, in order to ensure fair play and competitive integrity, we'll be monitoring these activities much more closely in order to make sure that the rules are being followed. This includes selling services for real money, account-sharing, and other violations."

Top raiders aren't the only people who usher lower-tier players through WoW's increasingly brutal theme parks, but Blizzard took aim at them for a reason.

"As some players have pointed out, we were indeed very conservative with this initial round of actions, and only issued penalties to a handful of the most egregious offenders who had blatantly and openly violated our terms of service," wrote global community engagement manager Josh "Lore" Allen. "These are meant to serve as a warning to all players who participate in such activities, as we intend for future actions to be much more comprehensive, and the punishments more severe."

Heck of a warning shot, given how much work top WoW players put into their characters. That's thousands and thousands of hours down the drain. Everybody else, learn from their mistakes or face some seriously gnarly consequences.


Comments

    I don't play WoW, can someone explain why this practice is a problem? Who is the victim?

      The victim is the people who the achievements legit and then people are just paying for it. So my progress now means less cause people can just buy it.

        Thomas, this is not something you have to bear alone. Reaching out for help is an important step towards getting the help you need to keep yourself safe.

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      There's no real victim in the moral sense, but it's a practice that is prohibited for valid reasons. It's against the terms of service because the activities of the players selling runs for IRL money take place on a platform Blizzard owns and without Blizzard's consent. If one of these runs were to result in some unpalatable consequence, such as a run buyer being scammed or worse, Blizzard may be on the hook for failing to prevent it. Obviously the argument could be made that they're not responsible for everything that happens in WoW, but it's a hassle to deal with either way, so it makes more sense to ban the practice outright.

      Further, Blizzard isn't getting a cut of the activity either. If it's a practice they felt comfortable with or felt good about leveraging to increase revenue, they'd have considered and done it themselves.

        Ok, yeah, this makes a lot of sense. It's their playground, they don't want people getting scammed on their watch. Thanks!

    The current bans are only for 8 days. As they stated, future bans will be more severe so this is just a warning and a wake up call. They've also done it at a time when guilds are still progressing in the latest raid but the race is over so it won't impact the top guilds overtly to miss a week but sends the message that Blizz can ban whenever they want to and ruin a race to world first.

    Blizz still allows runs for in game gold though so this is more about any real cash being spent has to be through Blizzard, not to a third party.

      Fuck Blizzard for this. It's not hurting anyone.

        It does hurt people though. Out of game trades can't be undone by Blizzard when you pay for a run and they never show up or don't actually give you what you bought. The whole reason out of game trades are banned is to prevent scams, and it's been in the terms of service since the game launched: you can't trade in-game things for out-of-game things and vice versa.

        You can buy carries as much as you want using in-game gold, Blizzard has no problem with that. If the other guy tries to scam you Blizzard has all the data in front of them, they can reverse the transaction and ban the other guy because the evidence is all there.

          I don't buy that though. The problem of people getting scammed isn't widespread and isn't a recent phenomenon. In particular, the top-level players getting banned are, presumably, not scamming anyone. Otherwise they would not be in demand. Blizzard has just decided it doesn't want anyone else profiting from the game.

            It's their game of course they don't want people leaching off their work.

              No, that's not right.

              The booster has paid Blizzard to use the game. The boostee has paid Blizzard to use the game. Any arrangements between booster and boostee that take place 'outside the game' do not concern Blizzard.

              What if I want to watch a film at Blizzard's cinema but it is a Chinese film without subtitles. My Chinese is a bit rusty, but I see a Chinese dude in the lobby who is also going to see the film. He says if I pay him $20 he will whisper explanations of the film to me. Blizzard says, no, you can't pay that dude $20 -- you can only pay him with candy from the concession stand. That's fucked up!

                That's actually one of the worst analogies I've heard.

                They pay blizzard to obtain a license to you the game. They at the same time agreed to the terms and conditions of the license. They breach the terms and conditions. Blizzard take action. End of story.

                  I never said the licence terms hadn't been breached or that Blizzard didn't have the legal right to take action. I said it's a fucked-up situation and that Blizzard are behaving like arseholes.

            Its their game and their IP. They get to decide if people can profit from their IP.

              Doesn't mean it isn't mean-spirited and petty. It'd be like me lending you my car and telling you that you can only borrow it if you don't give any of your mates a lift. Sure, that's my right, but I'd be an arsehole in that case, wouldn't I?

                I think a more apt example would be you borrowing my car, Then using my car to be an uber driver. You would be using my car to generate profit for yourself.

          If you frame the bans as good-guy Blizzard trying to protect you from the filthy no good scammers sure, but that's absolutely not the reason they're banning people (also if someone isn't being scammed, which I've got to assume happens frequently enough to warrant people still parting with their IRL gold for the service, then that justification doesn't hold up).

          Blizzard are trying to prevent people paying for an in-game service with a method that they don't get a cut of. Like you said, gold carries are fine - and you can trade $ for game time tokens which you can then trade for gold - so people can still pay $ for carries, but only if Blizzard gets a cut. Of course that's totally fine too, it's their IP they're entitled to do as they want with it and to protect it as they see fit, but the motivation is clearly just $$$.

            A cynical and completely unsubstantiated opinion. If Blizzard was only concerned with money, they wouldn't ban people for this at all because that would lead to lost subscription income during raid cycle downtime when these sales are at their peak. Every ban reduces Blizzard's income.

            The reason people are being sanctioned is because it's against the terms of service, simple as that.

              Well, let's just ignore the condescending assumptions for now and move straight to the point. It's not that they're only concerned with money, but they are most certainly concerned with making money in some sense. At the very least, as a publicly listed company they have a legal obligation to maximise profits for their shareholders (which can force companies to act in ways that are arguably against the interests of the company overall, or against the growth of the company - see Henry Ford and the model T). Yes, the whole thing is as simple as 'it's against the terms of service', but the terms of service for games are generally drafted to be as broad as possible to allow the company to make arbitrary decisions such as this without having to provide a specific justification for doing so (take Blizzard's current banning stance with Overwatch's custom match xp exploits for example). Besides, 'it is the case that it is against the terms of service and that's that' really says nothing that wasn't already entirely implicit and understood from the context of the story.

              Back to those assumptions though. You said they wouldn't ban people because that would lead to lost income. Would it? categorically? To me that sounds like an unsubstantiated opinion too, which would seem odd given your apparent dislike for such things. I could certainly envisage a situation where a hefty swing of the banhammer could grow the player base of a game (perhaps if there were particularly egregious cheaters in a game that was driving the player base or new players away until such time as it's fixed).

              Anyway, like I said above the almighty $ is the motivation behind most of the decisions large publicly listed companies make. Why? because legally, maximising shareholder profits is the primary standard that company directors are held to. It's not cynical. It's the law.

                Anyway, like I said above the almighty $ is the motivation behind most of the decisions large publicly listed companies make. Why? because legally, maximising shareholder profits is the primary standard that company directors are held to. It's not cynical. It's the law.

                No, it's not. You probably should brush up on the actual law because maximising shareholder profits is not in it. From the US Supreme Court ruling of Burwell v Hobby Lobby, 2014 (emphasis mine)

                While it is certainly true that a central objective of for-profit corporations is to make money, modern corporate law does not require for-profit corporations to pursue profit at the expense of everything else, and many do not do so. For-profit corporations, with ownership approval, support a wide variety of charitable causes, and it is not at all uncommon for such corporations to further humanitarian and other altruistic objectives.

                As for bans, WoW subscription numbers are past peak and in slow decline. Raiding has been a strong suit in the game for the last few expansions and a lot of effort has been put in to strengthening the raid experience.

                High-end carries are run almost exclusively by high-end raiders, and high-end raiding operates on a cycle of progression-farm-idle. During the idle stage, raiders who have nothing better to do often unsubscribe until the next content tier when the cycle begins again.

                Carries have proven an excellent way of keeping raiders subscribed to the game and playing during the idle stage between raid cycles. It gives them something worthwhile to do, and they remain subscribed in order to do it. Several top end raiding guilds commented during the Siege of Orgrimmar and Helfire Citadel idle stages that selling carries was one of the few things keeping them active. And that has a cascade effect on the people who buy their services too, keeping them active longer because they're ticking off boxes they wouldn't have otherwise.

                There's no uptick when you ban someone for RMT. No swarms of people say "gee, I should check out that 12 year old game because they banned a few TOS breakers". The gold seller ban waves in particular took out way more paying accounts than they would have picked up as a consequence of those bans.

                Blizzard isn't Activision, despite being connected. It operates independently and Blizzard has pretty solid track record of looking after the integrity of its game communities even when that may not be the most profitable course of action. They've made mistakes along the way as any company has, but they haven't shied away from admitting when they were wrong (eg. Diablo 3 pre-2.0).

                In my experience, the company understands the value of customer loyalty and the effect healthy community has on that loyalty. They have a long-standing reputation for opposing secondary markets, because they screw with the integrity of the community and are a hotbed for scams and bad experiences for their players. The secondary markets that popped up around Diablo 1 and 2 were ample proof of that, and they set out from the start with WoW to make sure it wouldn't do the same thing there too.

                So yes, I think you're wrong and that your view is cynical and based on assumption rather than observation. There's nothing condescending about that.

                  Fair enough, didn't know that about US corporations law. Regardless I still think you're being a bit naive, and the condescending part was more about your tone than anything else. But hey, glass houses and all that. Anyways that's more than enough from me, enjoy your evening.

                  edit: fuck you endless moderation

                  Last edited 11/03/17 8:27 pm

        Regardless, every time you join an online game (or anything really) they give you their Terms & Conditions. Inside those T&Cs it's very clear that you will not try to capitalise on their product. These people have violated the terms and they're paying the price for it. They (blizzard) don't give a shit about feelings, they're running a business and offering a product on their terms, which was accepted by everyone.

          Oh, you're absolutely right. My point is that Blizzard are being arseholes about this.

        I would say it hurts other players who put in the hours and time to legitimately progress. People feel cheated. Just look at the connotations with the term 'pay to win'.

          How does it affect the player's experience any differently than if the boostee was mates with the booster instead of paying him/her?

    Considering people have been selling runs for gold for years with no problems it's not surprising that there were some selling them for real cash. Considering gold = cash (thanks to battle.net tokens) surely that should be bannable too now?

    I have to say this seems like something that should have been warned first. Outright banning some of the best players in the world... ouch.

    edit: Xenoun's comment wasn't up when I posted. Fair enough then a short ban should get the point across. I thought it was a permanent ban.

    Last edited 10/03/17 3:25 pm

      The point about gold = cash isn't valid. You can buy token with money and sell it for gold, true...but you can only turn gold into B.Net balance which is then stuck on your account. There's no way to turn gold into money to pay for your rent or food.

      So gold doesn't equate to cash. Blizzard are fine with players selling runs for gold as that's using in-game currency for in-game services. They aren't ok with cash for in game services.

      Apart from Blizzard not getting a cut from the third party transactions there's doubtlessly also legal reasons why this could become a problem.

        I'd definitely argue that gold = cash. The fact that there is a cash value for a token which turns into a gold value defines it. At the moment it's about 91k = $25. Doesn't matter that you can't buy food/rent with it it's still exchangeable for other goods and services.

        Anyway, I think the more important difference (as you mention) is they're third party transactions. Because Blizzard has no control over them they don't like them. I suspect for multiple reasons. Cynically, because they're not getting their cut. Optimistically, because they're concerned about people getting ripped off.

          The whole reason this happened at all is because gold can't be converted to real money by legitimate means, ie. that gold doesn't equal cash. The relationship is unidirectional, which isn't enough. If gold could be converted to cash there wouldn't be any need to sell runs outside the game for real money because carry groups could just sell in-game for gold and then cash the gold payment out afterwards.

          It shouldn't really be difficult to understand why MMOs (this isn't unique to Blizzard) don't want external real money transactions. Legally there are ramifications for systems that allow bidirectional exchange, from gambling laws to taxation to liabilities (eg. suing for valuable items lost in a server glitch because those items are worth gold and gold has a real exchange value).

    the bans are also only for those that use a vendor site which takes real money from the boost-ee and then gives the amount of real money as gold to the boost-er guild.

    If your just boosting a guy from your server who paid you x amount of gold your fine and blizzard has no problem with it. and the main reason why blizzard have finaly done this is due to the fact that so many people were just blatantly advertising in the LFG tool. SO much that you would have to get past 30 [WTS High Mythic/Heroic EN/NH/ToV] before finding a regular group

    "We don't want anyone making money from our games" *looks at RMAH* "Unless it makes us more money"

      There are no Blizzard games with a RMAH. Diablo 3 was the only one that ever had one and it was removed three years ago.

    Boo hoo blizzard.
    There is nothing wrong with people doing this.

      these bans arent going to to guilds that charge gold for clears, they are going to the guilds that use websites and skype that charge Real Currency for clears. Just check the LFG tool and you find most of the groups advertised are just ads that tell you go to a website (such as wowvendor) or speak to someone on Skype.

      Put simply, you pay my guild 750k gold and we will carry you through end game content and all loot is yours. that is ok by blizzard
      You pay me $100USD and we do the exact same. Not ok by Blizzard

    Hmm, thought to myself "It wouldn't be an issue for Gun Gale Online" then remembered that it doesn't exist... Yet

      But RL cash in that would be for PvP protection rackets, and not dungeon runs.

    Given that you can sell in game gold for cash in about 5 minutes flat to the many sites out there set up for that exact service, you can easily pay the rent doing runs for gold...

      eh not anymore since the Tokens came into play and even more so now that they are connected to the battle.net balance

    carrys seriously deteriorated the game

    Blizzard doesn't care in the least or they would have removed the ability for players to trade in-game currency or items 6 month's after WOW's initial release back in 2004. Are people so naive that they don't realize that the "gold sellers" are funding terrorism. Follow the paper trail and see what you find, bet you'll be surprised.

    Back on topic, these players that were banned for selling runs probably just rubbed the developers the wrong way and they needed an excuse to boot them...

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