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Posts with tag world-of-warcraft-legal

Blizzard layoffs could mean many things

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.

It was a shock to many on Wednesday when Blizzard announced that it would be cutting 600 positions from the company, including many support and customer service jobs and even some developer spots. Very sad news for a great group of people, absolutely. Maybe we can do a little digging and figure out why Blizzard cut these positions and make some sense of it.

You don't just cut workers "because." Activision Blizzard is a publicly traded company in the United States, where corporations are beholden to their shareholders, profits, and the bottom line. We still live in a world where the price of stock is paramount, so raising the price of stock combined with investor satisfaction is key. Every decision by Activision Blizzard must, at the end of the day, be made with the knowledge that the investors matter.

Let's start with what employee staff reductions do not mean. Blizzard is not going broke or bankrupt because of these 600 jobs. World of Warcraft, StarCraft, Diablo, and unannounced titles are still being developed and pored over. Mike Morhaime himself said that the active positions cut were mostly non-developmental, which leaves support, customer service, and potential redundancies in the company's structure. All in all, 600 jobs is a large enough number that there is a reason for all of this.

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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, The Lawbringer

Rumble Between the Junglers: Questions about the DotA name

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.

Behind the scenes, people are moving about, reading papers and commenting on filings and jockeying around the words of a paragraph to make it "feel" nicer. We don't like using the word "community," one might say, because it is a sympathetic word, and we do not need sympathy at this hearing. Thousands of dollars an hour are thrown at the problem for however long the team needs to work on it. I bet there were a few nice late-night sushi orders.

These are the stars of the show -- two copyright and trademark filing teams, potentially backed up by a litigation team, positioning over the DotA trademark ownership issue. Last week on The Lawbringer, I gave a summary of what is happening between Valve, Blizzard, Riot Games, and the DotA community, concluding that the fight over who owns the DotA name has to be fought now because of a fight brewing for years as the genre grew.

In order to expand our minds just a bit and start thinking like we want to understand the problem, we need to build a framework around the DotA issue with questions about what this is all about. Let's boil the issues down to simple questions.

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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, The Lawbringer

Rumble Between the Junglers: How the DotA fight began

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.

Defense of the Ancients is a genre all unique to itself. Sure, the concepts are not brand new and the bulk of the original game was created using the Warcraft III World Editor, but the lasting appeal and standing reverence of the DotA genre continues today and shows no sign of slowing down. Part tower defense, part real-time strategy unit movement, this game type has experienced astounding growth all over the world over the last decade. As the genre grows, Defense of the Ancients-style games, or MOBAs (multiplayer online battle arenas), or ARTS (action real-time strategy), or... wait... what are we calling this genre?

My initial reaction to the entire naming fiasco was wonderfully summed up by Joystiq's own JC Fletcher: "Which giant company has the rights to the fan-created, community-promoted word 'Dota?'" He's right to be cynical -- justice will be meted out over a word that was born in the Blizzard maps community because of the actions of two super-huge gaming companies. That's not all there is to the story, however.

Therein lies the crux of the hot topic of the day -- Blizzard has finally thrown in its opposition of Valve's attempt to trademark the name Dota for its upcoming release of DOTA 2, a literal successor to the original DotA throne. The problem is that there are a whole bunch more facts, people, and anecdotes in this story than most people know.

I wrote a short post on the Dota trademark issue a few days ago that served as the basic of basics, what the news was about. Here's the short version: Valve is attempting to trademark a name that many gamers (and companies) consider to be a general term for the genre rather than the proper name for the game that spawned the genre. Hell, it could be both.

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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, The Lawbringer

Can I resell Blizzard promotional ampm cups?

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.

Regional advertising campaigns are both the scourge of the collector's market and a financial boon to the lucky residents of said region targeted. The most recent ad campaign for World of Warcraft features four collector's cups from ampm stores as well as the ampm sweepstakes, promising some pretty cool prizes for those lucky few. Here's the thought that's the most fun to think about: Which of these is more ad-worthy -- someone seeing a World of Warcraft cup and being convinced to play, or the mass scramble to create a nationwide cup network for collectors and WoW fans, fueling more ad presence?

It's a fun game, advertising. At some point in our lives, we were convinced that fandom and collectors could be the same consumer as the guy who bought stuff because the cup looked cool. At some point, we became complacent with advertisement as collectable, and that's fine. In fact, if anyone wants to send me a Kil'jaeden cup, let's talk.

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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, The Lawbringer

What does brand advertising mean for the MMO? Part 1

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.

Brand advertising has already been done in the MMO sphere. Anarchy Online's Free Play program has been showing users in-game advertisements for real-world products on in-game billboards since World of Warcraft launched in 2004. MMOs have survived since. Case closed.

Oh, you wanted more discussion. I see. It's been done before! Finally, we have some real precedent to talk about. Oh FunCom, you've finally managed to not disappoint me. Advertising models were one of the first types of campaigns to be applied to free-to-play versions of massively multiplayers that didn't hit perfection under a subscription model. In 2004, there were a tremendous number of MMOs to play, and people usually just stayed loyal to one. The fight for your subscription dollars was on.

Anarchy Online's Free Play program debuted in December 2004, just after the launch of the unknown but best-selling indie hit World of Warcraft, giving players a chance to play the game and its first expansion pack free of charge. Players subscribed to the Free Play game client would see advertisments in cities, towns, and other highly populated places in game for real-life goods, services, and companies. Advertising dollars paid for the game, as well as subscribers' choosing to pay and see fictional ads instead.

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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, The Lawbringer

The Lawbringer: Mail Bag 9

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, pitfalls and traps.

Welcome to another mail bag edition of The Lawbringer, ready to answer your questions, inqueries, and crazy considerations. A lot of you have been emailing me about SOPA and PIPA, the two bills currently being legislated on in the U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate. These bills make it extremely easy for parties who feel that they are the victims of copyright infringement to take websites offline without much due process due to the overreaching aspects of the broadness of the respective legislations' wording. We as a subculture of the internet do not like these pieces of legislation.

I chose not to talk about SOPA or PIPA because, honestly, I think everyone is saying what I would say better than I could say it. So many people much smarter than I have already said wonderful things about these bills that you should probably read those instead. If you're looking for more information on SOPA, PIPA, and their general mechanics and potential fallout, hit up Wikipedia for a full FAQ about the bill and great links. For a different perspective, my good friend Chris put up a great discussion of SOPA from a non-legal standpoint as a developer and programmer.

My Lawbringer mail bag always has awesome questions, and I'm thankful to all of you who send them in. I try to get to as many of them as I can, and if you haven't gotten a response, try sending your question in again. It might have just gotten lost or whatever. Email mat@wowinsider.com with any of your Lawbringer questions.

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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, The Lawbringer

Blizzard's battle in South Korea over the real money auction house

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, pitfalls and traps.

Diablo III is one of Blizzard's most ambitious (if not the single most ambitious) launch of a game in the history of video gaming. Blizzard intends on a worldwide mega-event to launch Diablo III simultaneously in every country, with a massive localization undertaking. Hundreds of millions of dollars have been poured into this product. Countless man-hours have been spent toiling behind computer screens and long nights and painful testing. This is the forge where artifacts are made.

And as the mighty hype machine churns and the release date comes closer and closer until the game is announced, the best-laid plans of men and Blizzard begin to feel the sting of friction. Chaos exists amongst the order. Back in September, we learned that South Korea had denied a rating to Diablo III because of concerns over the real money auction house, a new, hotly debated feature coming to the game. More specifically, the South Korean raters felt that the ability to "cash out" on real-money auctions skirted too close to the gambling line.

This was bad. This was really bad. How could a core feature of one of the most hotly debated and fought-over moves in microtransactions to this day be the cause of release hardships? People frantically checked their backlogs of notes. It didn't make sense. South Korea wasn't an issue, they assured themselves. There was no way.

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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, The Lawbringer

How much is a brand name license worth? Part 2

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, pitfalls and traps.

My first article on the issues of brand licensing and Bobby Kotick's comments pondering the profitability problems that Star Wars: The Old Republic could potentially have due to the amount of money it costs to license the Star Wars franchise received some nice follow-up emails. Many readers sent in emails about why people hold their licenses to their chests and charge so much, when it would logically be better to get the brand name on anything and everything people touch. After all, more products with your logo on them is good, right? Well ... Not really, and not always.

Last week, I confessed to not knowing the amount of money Lucas was going to be paid for the Star Wars license for The Old Republic, but we could surmise that it would be a hefty fee. Readers pointed to an article by Eurogamer that interviews Michael Pachter, a games industry analyst many people know of. He believes that the cut LucasArts will be taking is around 35% of the revenue split after Electronic Arts makes back all of the cash that it puts into the game itself. If that's true, it's pretty astonishing, since LucasArts has so much faith in EA and BioWare to make this game have some intense staying power.

Where World of Warcraft is concerned, Blizzard lives in a different world where rather than have to choose the perfect partner to make the next StarCraft game, it has to operate as the LucasArts-like party, finding the right people to make everything associated with its brands. Where The Old Republic is another Star Wars product, Blizzard's most popular franchise is a game first and a world of products secondary.

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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, The Lawbringer

How much is a brand name license worth?

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, pitfalls and traps.

Back at the beginning of the year, I wrote a piece for The Lawbringer called The power of licensing, including a brief account of what licensing is and what effects and benefits licensing your product has on brand recognition and where you make money on your product. Licensing is essentially granting someone the right to make and sell stuff with your intellectual property on it. Usually, you're not allowed to sell "stuff," in the loosest sense of the word, with images, artwork, characters, and so on that are not yours. Ownership rights are a little weird to grasp.

Back in November, Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick made some comments before the launch of Star Wars: The Old Republic concerning whether the game would be profitable at all, given the amount BioWare is paying to Lucas for the rights to even make a Star Wars game. Kotick's comments rang a very special bell in my brain, prompting me to think about the licensing contract that BioWare and Lucasfilm have over the Star Wars franchise, as well as the reverse Blizzard model in which the entire franchise is owned in-house.

George Lucas was a pioneer in the realm of movie merchandising, keeping the rights to all of the Star Wars characters and creating one of the most profitable toy and promotional brands in the history of entertainment. The Star Wars franchise is so incredibly far-reaching and part of our society that my younger brother knew that Darth Vader was Luke Skywalker's father years before he ever saw the movies. He was, however, very surprised at the whole Luke and Leia sibling deal. The reach, power, and control that Lucas exerts over his licensee partners is second to none.

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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, The Lawbringer

The necessary relationship between Blizzard and law enforcement

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, pitfalls and traps.

Back in 2009, a man named Alfred Hightower escaped to Canada from the United States after a warrant was issued for his arrest in Indiana for drug dealing and other charges. The Howard County Sheriff's Department had no idea where Hightower ran off to until a deputy figured out that Alfred Hightower was a World of Warcraft player. After a politely worded request for information about the guy to Blizzard, the detectives had everything they needed to find, alert the proper authorities in Canada, and arrest Alfred Hightower.

Blizzard didn't really have to easily comply with the information request by the Howard County Sheriffs Department but did so in a smooth and cooperative way. Sure, there are scenarios where some information would be compulsory and downright necessary (in the case of national emergency or someone in mortal danger), but this was just some dealer who ran to Canada. There's usually a longer process.

Antisec, the hacker anti-security movement, released a document back in November that allegedly discusses how Blizzard will respond to law enforcement information requests and provide law enforcement with a sort of a primer on World of Warcraft and what to expect from Blizzard's cooperation. What's interesting is that this primer and information packet had to have been created to streamline the process of helping out law enforcement. Someone made this packet to save time, which means there have been plenty of requests for people's information.

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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, The Lawbringer

The tainted race to world first

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, pitfalls and traps.

Possibly the hottest story over the last few days has been the suspensions and bans Blizzard handed down after the rampant cheating through the Raid Finder, introduced with patch 4.3. Using a loot exploit, guilds were heading in to the Raid Finder in a premade group, killing bosses 20 to 30 times, and distributing the loot amongst raiders well in excess of what the game had hoped to allow for in both mechanics and spirit of the system.

Cheating and MMOs go together as well as peanut butter and chocolate. The top MMO players have been cheating, exploiting, and creatively using game mechanics since the dawn of the modern massively multiplayer, always butting heads up against developers. When, most notably, DREAM Paragon was caught using this Raid Finder loot exploit and apologized publicly, I didn't understand the shock and awe. Back in the EverQuest days, guilds exploited like crazy to get bosses down and gear up for encounters that had so many gates you'd think you were attending a Microsoft cosplay event.

I know, I totally promised a Lawbringer about licensing and Star Wars: The Old Republic and the WoW Law Enforcement Guide this week. Wait another week. I've banned you all from these topics for seven days.

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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, The Lawbringer

The Lawbringer: They stole my guild charter!

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, pitfalls and traps.

In an oddly unorthodox manner, I'm going to begin this week's Lawbringer with a teaser for next week's edition. Bobby Kotick recently called out Electronic Arts and BioWare for the potential profitability problems that a game like Star Wars: The Old Republic presents when looking at the licensing requirements for such a franchise product. As someone who very much enjoys talking about licensing and the fun details that go along with it, I wanted to save that topic for its own article, which I think you will all get a kick out of.

Kotick's comments got me thinking about licenses and branding and other related topics. Original properties that don't require a license fee to use, like World of Warcraft in relation to what Blizzard spends to use its own intellectual property, is a huge gain as well as a potential backfire.

Many readers have also emailed in questions about the WoW Law Enforcement Guide that AntiSec released detailing how Blizzard interacts with law enforcement agencies and the information they possess. It's a very interesting read, and I've wanted to take the time to put my thoughts together before I responded through an article on The Lawbringer. So don't worry, intrepid link-senders, your cries are not falling on deaf ears. I'm just taking my time.

For now, we place those thoughts on the backburner. Today we have some interesting emails to get through. If you've got a question for The Lawbringer, please send a message with Lawbringer somewhere in the subject to mat@wowinsider.com with your question. I will hopefully be able to help you out with an answer, if not in the column than an email response. Send in those questions!

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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, The Lawbringer

The strange world of the NDA

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, pitfalls and traps. How about you hang out with us as we discuss some of the more esoteric aspects of the games we love to play?

The non-disclosure agreement, commonly known as the NDA, is a document that the MMO world has come to rely on as a bastion of secrecy, trust, and tempered information release. As the stakes are raised with every new MMO hitting the market and larger beta tests a new necessity, the NDA has come into a new era all its own. The video game industry has never been a stranger to the NDA and, as you might expect, the MMO industry is definitely a friend to this type of agreement.

With private closed betas of MMOs becoming the new normal, sometimes it's very difficult to keep the lid on all of the information your beta provides to the masses. One of the most important public relations tools is the slow drip of information that comes out to hype a new MMO before its release date. Keeping that slow drip going without your stalwart beta testers leaking screenshots, posting anonymously about content, or taking the conversation to inappropriate venues can hurt the precious hype time you've worked so hard to cultivate.

Blizzard is no stranger to harsh NDA issues and secrecy concerns. Back during the alpha for Wrath of the Lich King, huge amounts of information were leaked about the expansion, prompting Blizzard to make uncharacteristically harsh comments toward the leakers. Many people still have the enormous Cataclysm leak still fresh in their minds, as the friends and family alpha/beta of Catacylsm was fileted on the internet, opened for the world to see from every possible angle.

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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, The Lawbringer

The morals of the WoW Annual Pass story

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, pitfalls and traps. How about you hang out with us as we discuss some of the more esoteric aspects of the games we love to play?

After last week's Lawbringer about what happens to the rewards you've accumulated as part of the WoW Annual Pass, many people began sending in questions and comments about the ability to cancel and the nature of agreeing to a year of World of Warcraft service. What many don't realize or just didn't consider was that the WoW Annual Pass is really, truly, a commitment to WoW for a year that also comes with some extras. While you can pay off the year commitment monthly, the commitment stays in place.

People emailed me many different questions and stories about the WoW Annual Pass that I hope I can help with or at least put into some perspective. The ultimate conclusion, for me anyway, is that the WoW Annual Pass is such a new thing, such a different thing, that many people are not accustomed to the way it works, especially after pressing that button and locking in their account for a year.

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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, The Lawbringer

What happens if you break the WoW Annual Pass 12-month commitment?

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, pitfalls and traps. How about you hang out with us as we discuss some of the more esoteric aspects of the games we love to play?

The WoW Annual Pass is probably one of my favorite things ever to come from Blizzard. I'm going to be playing World of Warcraft for the next 12 months anyway, right? Now I've got a free mount, guaranteed access to the Mists of Pandaria beta, and a free copy of Diablo 3 waiting for me on release day. It doesn't get much better for a die-hard Blizzard fan like myself. This deal is so awesome that I wouldn't be surprised if more games were added to the bundle at some point in the future.

Many players have sent in questions to me about the legality of the commitment and how binding the 12-month commitment really is. What happens when you cancel your subscription to the WoW Annual Pass before your 12 months are paid for? What happens to your Tyrael's Charger, free copy of Diablo 3, and beta access? Where do these perks go if you fail to meet your commitment?

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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, The Lawbringer

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