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The Lawbringer: Mailbag 10

Pop law abounds in The Lawbringer, your weekly dose of WoW, the law, video games and the MMO genre. Mathew McCurley takes you through the world running parallel to the games we love and enjoy, full of rules, regulations, and esoteroic topics that slip through the cracks.

With Mists of Pandaria information on the horizon, players are clamoring for release dates, beta information, and everything in between. People just want something, anything, to tide them over. How about The Lawbringer? We're talking some Mists beta and the Diablo real money auction house. Won't you join us?

Mailbags are fun because the discussion topics come to me. Readers always have some great questions, and I'm more than happy to delve into an answer or two. This week's questions are ones that I get frequently and, with the recent couple of weeks' being newsworthy and fun, emails sometimes get left in the mud. Well, let's answer some emails.

Our first Lawbringer email comes from Toro, who wants to know what's up with Mists of Pandaria beta access that is guaranteed through subscription to the WoW Annual pass:
Hi Mat,
Love your column on wow insider.

I have purchased an Annual WoW pass mainly to get into MoP Beta (free D3 is a nice bonus). Somewhere in the T&Cs (or FAQs) for Annual Pass, I remember seeing a phrase "you will get access to Beta as soon as Beta goes live".

Now, recently rumors around Blizzard inviting people into MoP Beta in waves have started spreading.

I wonder how legal is it, as in – if they promised everyone to gain access to Beta as soon as it goes live, then waves (I.e. Delayed invitation, potentially weeks after Beta started) would be illegal, right?

Thank you,

Toro
Thanks for the email, Toro. The World of Warcraft Annual Pass does provide guaranteed access to the Mists of Pandaria beta, but I do not believe that it specifically says when access will be allowed. There are a few factors to consider when figuring out how Blizzard can incorporate over a million annual pass subscribers into a beta at once and what the solution will be.

One scenario is that the Mists of Pandaria beta is going to be very unlike the recent expansion betas, which have been gameplay- and system-focused, versus The Burning Crusade beta, which focused heavily on content. The content-type beta lasted for a much shorter period of time because the core systems were already in place and the meat of the testing was mainly about flow, numbers, and easily managed factors. Betas that introduced vast system changes like the original vanilla beta, Wrath, and Cataclysm had longer beta periods because of the complexity of the new.

The second scenario is that the Mists of Pandaria beta will last for a good, long while beginning soon and ending just prior to release, which would be around August or September. This long beta would allow extensive testing of the new systems and mechanics changes as well as push new beta testers through testable content.

If the first scenario happens, everyone who is entitled to a beta invite gets one over the course of a short period of time, perhaps a wave or two. The beta would last maybe a month or two and feature (just as cleverly demonstrated in the Diablo III beta) a limited amount of Pandaria content so as to not spoil too much of the fun. This locked-off beta would let Blizzard's faithful test the new mechanics and starting areas for a month or so before release, and that's pretty cool.

If we're going the long route, Blizzard will introduce annual pass holders in waves over the course of a few months. You cannot let in over a million people into a closed beta of a game that's not ready to handle the load. If we're half a year out to Mists of Pandaria, there is no way a beta like this is going to be happening. If it is, we're going to see a late 2012 release, which would not be cool. We will most likely see the first option.

Annual Pass wording

As for the actual question you asked me, I took a look through the annual pass stuff and found some of the wording used relating to your beta invite. Here's the actual text from the advertisement splash page for the Annual Pass:

WoW Annual Pass rewards
Access to the Next WoW Expansion Beta Test – Get a guaranteed spot in the beta test for the next World of Warcraft expansion (at a time to be announced in the future).


The only references to the beta test invitation that I could find in the FAQ were discussing transferability and which game you get invited into. For what it's worth, Blizzard is made up of a good group of people who love their customers enough to not hang the beta carrot out in front of you and then give you a week of play time. You'll get content and some time to play through it, if that's your worry. If not, then we can get pretty critical of the whole ordeal. Until then, let's see what the release window holds.

A minor question

Noelwiz the mage has an interesting question regarding minors and the Diablo III real money auction house. I like this question because it is relevant to yesterday's news that Diablo III is actually being released and all of this is not a fairy tale.
Hi, i have a interesting question about diablo 3s real money action house. Will the money i make from it be able to be taxed via income taxes?

Also, since i am under 18 and there for not allowed to pay taxes or something along those lines, how will it affect me? Will it be like an allowance where its not taxed, or will there have to be something different. Because if an item sells i cant lose money for the base fees, and therefor i am defiantly making an income.

Finally if there were to be a tax would it matter if i cashed out or left it in my blizzard wallet.

Thanks for the help in advanced and i hope this gets answered in the next mailbag, or a article specifically about this - also im ok if u say im under 18.

From noelwiz, 85 mage on kahz'gorth oceanic.
Thanks for the email, Noelwiz. There are two factors we have to consider to answer this question, but before we do that, I need to point out why I loved Noelwiz's email and it gets answered in the column -- the subject of the email was "For Lawbringer Mailbag 10," which means he is dedicated enough to know we're on the 10th mailbag. Nice.

All right, the question: Well, the first factor is whether or not a minor can create a Battle.net account, which is required to use the Diablo III real money auction house. If minors are not allowed to make accounts, we can all just go home, right? So if minors can make Battle.net accounts but minors are not legally allowed to sign certain contracts and documents, who is liable for the minor's actions in regard to the game?

Minors can make accounts

In the United States, minors can make a Battle.net account as long as their parents have also reviewed and accepted the terms on behalf of the minor. Your parents essentially own your account if you're a minor and are granting you access to it under your own name.

We learned and deduced a while back that one of the easiest ways to see how a problem is being dealt with regarding the real money auction house would be to look at eBay's terms of use because of the PayPal/Blizzard connection. It's not exact, but we can get an idea. Here's what eBay says about minors and accounts:
You must be at least 18 years old to be an eBay member.

A person under 18 can use an adult's account with the permission of the account holder. However, the account holder is responsible for everything done with that account.

Make sure you follow these guidelines. If you don't, you may be subject to a range of actions, including limits of your buying and selling privileges and suspension of your account.

If you think another member is under 18, please report them to us. Make sure to include any relevant information about why you think the member is underage. If you have an email from the member, please be sure to include a copy of it.
The best answer to this question is that if you're a minor and you're playing Diablo III, it is very important for you to let your parents know about all the features of the gamem because anything groundbreakingly bad that could happen could affect them. Taxes, money earned, and other financial things should be first discussed with a parent. If you are a parent with a child who is going to be playing the game, please monitor their Battle.net activity and make use of Blizzard's available parental control settings. You don't want to make things hard for your parents, kids.

If you've got questions for The Lawbringer, please send them to mat@wowinsider.com.

This column is for entertainment only; if you need legal advice, contact your lawyer. For comments or general questions about law or for The Lawbringer, contact Mat at mat@wowinsider.com.

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, The Lawbringer

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