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Legal files reveal IGE and Affinity connection once and for all

You may remember that earlier this summer, when Affinity Media purchased Wowhead (to add to their acquisitions of Thottbot and Allakhazam), we were able to interview Affinity Media CEO John Maffei, and he told us, in a very roundabout way, that Affinity and IGE had supposedly parted ways-- Affinity and its content sites were, he said, no longer associated with the company that sold gold in World of Warcraft. However, if you read the comments on that interview, you may have doubted what Maffei told us, and now, thanks to legal documents surfacing because of a legal action against IGE, it appears you were exactly right: Affinity and IGE are (or were, according to Affinity Media) still two peas in the same pod (see Update).

I know for certain right now that some of you commenters are preparing the "aww geez, not this again" (NSFW) macro to post, and I don't blame you. You're exactly right; this is boring business stuff, not new news about the Sunwell, and anyone paying attention back during the Wowhead acquisition knew that the two companies were still connected anyway. If this isn't news you to, fine-- I don't mean to reopen Pandora's Box, we just want to make sure we do due diligence in covering this issue.

But let's be completely clear about the situation, so that everyone can know how this is working: One of the biggest companies involved in real-money trading (which Blizzard and many players consider cheating) is also (or used to be, according to Affinity Media) the company backing three of the biggest online WoW databases. Considering how useful those sites are, it would be hard if not impossible to do anything like a boycott (and for the record, WoW Insider will continue to use all three of them, unless there is a strong call from you readers not to). And we weren't completely lied to by Maffei-- it is true that no gold ads have appeared on those three sites (which is more than we can say at WoW Insider, unfortunately, considering our relationship with Google Adsense). It's true that there is no visible connection between their content network and their (according to Affinity, former) RMT company.

But the fact remains that Affinity Media (the owners of Wowhead, Thottbot, and Allakhazam) and IGE (which, according to Affinity, used to be) one of the biggest companies making money off of breaking WoW's Terms of Service) are still closely related, if not the same company. It's our job to make sure you know that-- it's yours to decide what that means, if anything, to you.

Update: Affinity has contacted us, and is now saying that Affinity did sell off IGE's assets, but they had to keep a division of the company called IGE, and that's why the IGE name appears in their legal papers. That doesn't answer, however, why IGE's goldselling website (which I won't link to, but which can be found easily in a Google search) is still open for business. We have requested further comment and will post it when we get it.

Again, I don't mean to reopen Pandora's box here-- if you're tired of this issue and feel that you understand the situation, great. Feel free to read our many other posts, a very, very small percentage of which have to do with this issue at all. But we're committed to getting to the truth of this, and the facts are that we're seeing one thing in legal papers (that Affinity the content company and IGE the goldselling company are related), and being told another by the company itself.

Your feedback is being heard. We won't post on this issue again. But it's our responsibility as a site that covers World of Warcraft news to report the relationship between these two companies if one exists.

Update II: Affinity is telling us that the IGE now selling gold and the Affinity Media now running Wowhead and Thottbot are two different companies, and that Affinity is only being called IGE in the lawsuit because that's what they were called when they were part of the gold-selling company. By all appearances, Affinity and IGE have split as companies, and the company selling gold is no longer the same company running the databases.

However, that doesn't mean there is no financial relationship between the two companies-- this document, in particular, points to money changing hands between the two. In all likelihood, the money is going from IGE LTD (the company now running the gold selling business) to Affinity Media (called "IGE US, now known as Affinity Media" in the legal documents) as a way of paying for the infrastructure set up when the company now known as Affinity Media was involved in RMT.

In short, if there is money changing hands, it's going from the gold sellers to the content makers-- the players buying gold are paying for Wowhead and Thottbot (again, if there is money changing hands). It is extremely unlikely, from everything we've seen in our research, that money is going the other way, and that visiting the database sites will actually support a company selling gold. And that's good news for all of us who appreciate how useful sites like Thottbot and Wowhead are, and that also respect the Blizzard Terms of Service.

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Virtual selves, News items, Making money

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