Blizzard: No Charging For Addons

Announcement on the official forums

Which sucks for these guys. Also, apparently, for this guy, who plans to cease development of a mod which, though donation-ware, has supported him as a full time job. Possibly because his addon has more users than most MMOs.

Speculation is that this was sparked by Carbonite, the most popular for-pay addon, recently offering a free in-game ad-supported version, and some have pointed to a new terms of service that went live that includes a reference to in-game advertising through Massive’s in-game ad service.

Note that this is not, in and of itself, concrete proof that World of Warcraft is about to slap Mountain Dew billboards in Darnassus – the TOS above is actually for battle.net, which already sells advertising. Paul Sams of Blizzard has already clearly stated “Uh, we’re not THAT stupid” when Massive originally announced the Battle.net contract; the reason why the battle.net TOS shows up in World of Warcraft now is due to Blizzard moving their account system to a unified structure under battle.net. Still, given how insanely large the World of Warcraft market is… never say never… although many subscribers might . Even with a juggernaut like WoW, there is only so much that you can ‘monetize’ a player base before they revolt in disgust.

But, moving back to the original topic – what is motivating Blizzard’s addon crackdown? Probably a few reasons:

No more obfuscated code: the reasons of which would hopefully be clear. If an addon figures out how to exploit some bug in WoW’s LUA sandbox, it’s hard to replicate if you can’t see the code. Yet at the same time, without obfuscated code, selling addons is fairly pointless. Clearly, Blizzard decided addon safety trumps addon sales.

No more in-game advertising or donation solicitation: the reasons for which are somewhat less clear. It may have been that Blizzard wanted to shut down adware like Carbonite simply so that no player thinks Blizzard is selling ad space to, say, Transdneister Gold Farmers LLC. Perhaps they don’t particularly like the idea of addon users making money from a secondary market created by WoW. It’s difficult to say until we get a clear statement as to their intent, which hasn’t happened yet (but given QuestHelper’s high visibility, we may see shortly).

No more addons: the alarmist view seen in some of these discussions, that Blizzard simply wants to shut down addon development by making sure no one can collect donations. This is silly for a couple of reasons. First off, if Blizzard wanted to shut down addon development, they could simply remove the ability to load external addons in the next patch. It’s not that difficult. Second and most importantly, a lot of WoW’s value comes from those addons, and it’s an effective force multiplier in client development that later games have sought to emulate. Much of Blizzard’s live team patching of the client is ‘inspired’ by successful addons, such as MobHealth, ScrollingCombatText and Omen, all of which are now at various levels of implementation in the game’s basic client.

My view on the subject?

Prohibiting in-game advertising via addons is extremely justifiable. If anyone sells in-game advertising, it should be Blizzard itself. Not that they should. But for others to is pretty clearly skeevy, on a level with web sites that yoink news stories from RSS feeds and wrap ads around them pretending to provide their own content. (No link provided – I don’t feel like rewarding them with page views.)

Prohibiting direct sales of addons is somewhat dicey but justifiable, mainly due to what I wrote about code obfuscation. Still, simply making code obfuscation against the ToS would have the same effect and be less chilling.

Prohibiting in-game solicitations of donations isn’t as justifiable. It’s difficult to see what Blizzard gains by this, and it’s very easy to see what the player base loses. If the fear is that addons will become obnoxious with donation nags – this is a self-correcting problem.

Selling in-game ads in World of Warcraft is apocalyptically bad. To the degree that if they actually are planning on doing such a thing (which mind you, I don’t believe they are), I hope that Blizzard’s subscriber numbers fall at such an alarming rate that they immediately yank them back out. I am extremely tired of game companies selling advertising in games I already paid for ONCE. Selling advertising in games I pay for ON A MONTHLY BASIS is not acceptable. Period. End of sentence. There is no justification. None. If you don’t make enough off my subscription fee, raise the subscription fee. I will not pay a monthly fee to be a pair of eyeballs for you to make still more money off of.

Not that Blizzard has already done that or anything.

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67 Responses to Blizzard: No Charging For Addons

  1. Ted Striker says:

    QuestHelper guy says he’s shitcanning development of the mod due to the “no soliciting donations” part of the policy, so there’s another one down.

  2. geldonyetich says:

    For the sake of argument (if you feel you’d wear this particular crosshair well) you might want to elaborate for the dumb Internet just why Blizzard would do this. Maybe throw in your opinion about that. (Unless maybe the brevity of this post is just a, “I aient touching that one but I wanted to mention it” situation.)

    According to the provided link it’s to “help promote an enjoyable gaming environment for all of our players.” Could this mean they were worried that charging for add-ons would create incentives in people to develop such good add-ons that it would result in an unfair playing field to those who didn’t shell out for it? Or are they just being stingy tightwads?

  3. Angstrom says:

    Evil Angstrom: Blizzard is not in a position to enforce terms on the relationship between the addon user and the addon provider, and historically attempts to make “you can’t make money on this SDK” license terms fly have been problematic. If a developer builds an addon using only “clean” information sources (like reading other peoples’ addon source) and not the Blizzard docs, then Blizzard has no hold here.

    Good? Angstrom: Blizzard’s addon API is a copyrightable work, and they are free to impose license on its distribution. Furthermore, they’re also in a position to ban people for any reason – read the TOS – so they can ban a given addon’s users. Even a rumour that an addon gets people banned would kill that addon right smartly.

    The only thing that surprises me here is that it took this long for *any* policy about paid addons to come about.

  4. Gx1080 says:

    The games industry has always being touchy when others make money off their product. And, obvoius i wouldnt want that a guy who didnt sweat as much as i did making my project making cash off it. Mainly because if the add-on is good a good chunk off the players are going to pay that guy money. And the money (motivation) is going to make him do better add-ons and finally everybody is going to pay that guy money.

    Why the little shit that just did an add-on should make money off MY GAME? Of course they cant just say that so they say “help promote an enjoyable gaming environment for all of our players.” Oh please, at least be honest.

  5. Daniel says:

    Gx1080. I doubt that is the logic. I hope it’s not at any rate. I’d imagine the real reason is one of control. The problem with other people making money off of you work is not that they are making money. It’s that their work easily comes to be seen as part and parcel of your own work. And then you do something to the game and that very popular add-on maker doesn’t like it; and rather than getting pissed at the add-on maker, your customers get pissed at you. And then you wind up bending to the needs of the add-on maker just to keep your customers happy and viola! the servant has become the master. No thank you. Blizzard has always said that they will do what is in the best interest of the game. And they want (and perhaps need) control to do that.

  6. Mist says:

    Software copyrights are getting ridiculous. Imagine if the rest of the world worked like this. No, you can’t make products that go in CARS that X company makes. That would kill aftermarket car stereos, GPS systems, etc. Same goes for all sorts of products that have aftermarket addons, like guns, tools, all sorts of home and industrial equipment, or, hell, computers themselves. But somehow, when you make software, you’ve got the law protecting you like some kind of sacred cow. How did things get this way?

  7. Adam says:

    “But somehow, when you make software, you’ve got the law protecting you like some kind of sacred cow. How did things get this way?”

    You’re way offbase here. Blizzard has been very generous with regards to the addon community (several other games have banned all addons altogether). What they said here was that they won’t allow addons that require a payment to use. Useful addons can still have donation links on their website, but they’re trying to limit the influence of addons that sufficiently alter the gaming experience such that people will pay for them.

    Also, the law? Seriously? It’s their game. They can allow or disallow whatever they like. This is not a copyright issue at all. If they don’t like an addon, they are legally free to ban from their servers anyone using it, since those customers all agreed to their terms for playing the game. Buying a car stereo or gun doesn’t require logging in to their servers every time you use it. How absurd of an argument.

  8. Daniel says:

    @ted Striker. I went and read through some of the comments on the offical forums and I think an important point was lost in translation. Blizzard now has a policy. There is no word yet on how they intend to enforce that policy. I sincerely doubt that if someone solicits a donation on the “about” screen of their add-on Blizz is going to flip out and ban them, even if technically they could. I would be shocked if they did that. This is about control and Bliz wants to assert control. If you play well with others Bliz is very likely to play well with you. The QH guy shouldn’t freak out; it’ll be good.

  9. Tenbears says:

    @Mist — See, you have a perfect point there… So now we can’t have universal remotes because they make using all our AV equip easier. Or we can’t use a fuel additive because it make our car run better. Or we can’t use butter on our fucking toast because it makes the cinnamon toast better. I mean, really. Where does this stop?

    TT

  10. Caleb says:

    The difference is, Mist, that Car companies don’t regularly make free upgrades to enhance the usability of your car and remove all problems with it that you have been having.

    I don’t see anyone raising a stink over addons to single player games, and rightfully so. I think daniel hit the nail on the head. They have gone further than any other MMO company EVER in accommodating addon developers. But ultimately they need control over their own content, and this, they see, is needed for that control.

  11. Freakazoid says:

    geldonyetich :
    According to the provided link it’s to “help promote an enjoyable gaming environment for all of our players.” Could this mean they were worried that charging for add-ons would create incentives in people to develop such good add-ons that it would result in an unfair playing field to those who didn’t shell out for it?

    This. At the very least, it would create barriers to entry (most likely in the form of raid tools), depending on what is discovered. Besides, they have already flexed their control over what you can’t use with xml. There would be, uh, “complications” with addon makers who were making fat bank over a cool trick that suddenly isn’t allowed anymore.

  12. geldonyetich :

    For the sake of argument (if you feel you’d wear this particular crosshair well) you might want to elaborate for the dumb Internet just why Blizzard would do this. Maybe throw in your opinion about that. (Unless maybe the brevity of this post is just a, “I aient touching that one but I wanted to mention it” situation.)

    Nothing as conspiratorial as that, I was just busy this evening (ironically enough, in WoW) but wanted to get the story up for discussion. I’ve fleshed it out now with hopefully enough opinion to meet your exacting standards!

  13. Longasc says:

    Blizzard opened Pandora’s box with all this UI modding and addon stuff themselves.

    Sure, they got great ideas for their UI through the modder community. COSMOS UI was largely incorporated into their UI by default. Sneaky…

    Play WoW without Addons/Mods – and you are maybe not screwed, but definitely at a disadvantage, often a severe disadvantage. Just think about the many Battleground group joiner addons, mods that are close to bots and so on.

    IMO: MMORPGs should offer their customers tons of ways to customize appearance. Maybe even to add their own “skins”. But definitely not allow them extra abilities, shortcuts and other major modifications.

  14. Sullee says:

    Longasc :Blizzard opened Pandora’s box with all this UI modding and addon stuff themselves.
    Sure, they got great ideas for their UI through the modder community. COSMOS UI was largely incorporated into their UI by default. Sneaky…
    Play WoW without Addons/Mods – and you are maybe not screwed, but definitely at a disadvantage, often a severe disadvantage. Just think about the many Battleground group joiner addons, mods that are close to bots and so on.
    IMO: MMORPGs should offer their customers tons of ways to customize appearance. Maybe even to add their own “skins”. But definitely not allow them extra abilities, shortcuts and other major modifications.

    Yup, this is the correct answer. Blizzard has been bending over their customers with this addon crap since beta and it is the entirely wrong way to go.

    For one thing, they use it as a crutch for an incredibly bad stock UI. Seriously, WoW stock UI despite it’s improvements is diablo-style circa 1997 and outright blows for a modern MMO. It’s missing core features and even the most basic of customization options.

    For another they have milked addons from a support perspective. Which is to say they don’t support them at all. So players are stuck going to 3rd party sites to get, install, and configure addons. At best those addons are fixes to blizzard’s bad design or lack of design decisions and are written by amateurs who may or may not continue to develop their addon in the future. At worst they are trojan\virus laden malware. No matter what any issue the customer has will not be supported by blizzard as their first steps are always going to be to remove all addons.

    Worst of all is all the WoW clones who copy this crap UI in hopes of enticing customers. Oh I understand why it is done it just sucks as a player to see the industry take giant steps backwards all because blizzard was willing to sell-out their UI to make their diablo fanbase more comfortable.

  15. Iggep says:

    I think there is an aspect to this discussion that people are forgetting. Blizzard now has a bigger stick to pursue people with, even if it isn’t as large as it could become. Copyright infringement (i.e. Glider case). Now Blizzard can do much more than ban someone who is hellbent on ignoring Blizzards impositions here. Now they can actually pursue someone in court, and win, based on the same flawed argument they used in the Glider case. It’s exactly the stage that computer industry analysts said could happen when the opined on the subject, and I think is something that we should worry about much more than we seem to be doing at the moment.

    Blizzard would never pursue anyone, would they? In the immortal words of a great movie “go ahead, make my day”.

  16. Clade says:

    I assume (maybe totally incorrectly) that this is a matter of mitigating legal risk. When addons are all FOSS, and done by volunteers, then when Blizzard changes the API players and addon devs shrug go “oh well” and move on to the next addon (see: original decursive, healbot, the “autonavigate” addons). If there are corporations arising around paid, proprietary addons and Blizzard makes a change to the API that disables that addon, the addon company will likely lawyer up and sue to have that piece of the API restored.

    You could even take this farther and see crazy lawyers charging Blizzard with anti-trust violations the next time Blizzard incorporated a cool addon into the base game functionality, much the same way Microsoft comes under fire whenever they release a new OS function that wipes out an entire market segment.

    By insisting that addons remain FOSS then these risks (and probably even more that corporate lawyers can dream up) are lessened.

  17. yunk says:

    I thought part of it was right now they can easily appropriate ideas into their product, like the threat meters. But if people charge for it and Blizzard lets them, the next time they incorporate an addon into their code that person sues. If Blizzard let them charge and never said anything it might be considered by a court to be some sort of acknowledgement by Blizzard that the addon idea is that 3rd party’s property and Blizzard wouldn’t be able to incorporate it into their code without a payout, or at least dealing with a lawsuit.

  18. Mailius says:

    My initial response to seeing this policy was similar to Iggep’s. With their recent victory against Glider it seems like they would be willing to throw their lawyers around. To me the win against Glider translates as: base your small computer corporation somewhere other than the US (or else the DMCA will come and get you).

    Looking a little more into it I also agree with others about addons greatly improving the game so they become semi-mandatory, but an additional fee (for instance carbonite charges by the month(!), I think about 2.50). This also squashes other, more shady addons that are advertised and sold as part of a “level quickly” guide. And think about it, if things got too far out of control you might have people repackaging carbonite or quest helper whatever and selling it for a lump sum (to people who don’t know the originals exist). This change just cuts off potential mess.

    The main addon this change seems to be targeting is carbonite, the primary function it provides is quest assistance (as far as I can tell, I don’t use it). Perhaps Blizzard doesn’t like quest-assistant addons? After all, they already have the quest information, and if they wanted to make questing simpler the way quest helper et al do it, they could just expose the information to the client. This change might be a more subtle way of reducing quest assistant addons without removing a large number of API hooks which would also interfere with other addons and generally upset a large number of people.

    In defense of Blizzard’s default UI, it’s actually pretty decent in my experience despite what many people say. The addons I use provide pretty non-standard UI extensions (Auctioneer, Quest helper, Grid, etc.) that would be difficult or impossible to implement with just a re-skinning. Finally, Blizzard provides some fairly powerful in game macroing tools including things like /castsequence to those people who think that it’s only the 3rd party addons that simplify gameplay. In general the bot-like addons are gone (have been gone since the first expansion)– one click, one spell, as well as other restrictions.

  19. Rog says:

    I don’t see why Addon authors shouldn’t be allowed to accept donations to support development, just so long as they don’t nag-screen advertise within the addon itself.

    In fact, I’d be hard pressed as to how Blizzard could stop anyone from doing that, given that most authors probably have other non-addon related projects and they can just ask for ‘gift’ donations on their websites for all / any of their projects. It’s an old tried-and-true shareware method.

    I’m assuming the advertising and obfuscating issues are the real sticky points and Blizzard is just trying to limit those by removing the source motivation: any sort of 3rd party profit-making connected to their game(s).

  20. Muckbeast says:

    I’m with Longasc on this one. The whole WoW Add-On concept is an abomination. UI customization is nice when it is tantamount to skinning. But the level of functionality added by Add-Ons is nearly required to be at all competitive in PvP and PvE.

    My wife has been trying to convince me to play WoW again, and one of the biggest barriers is this: “Ugh, if we play WoW again, first thing I have to do is spend 10 hours researching, installing, and experimenting with UI mods to figure out which ones are still being updated and still provide all the core functionality I was used to.”

    Then every major patch you have 2-4 days of torturous hell as Add-Ons slowly get fixed. In the meantime, its like playing a different game.

    Blizzard should have done a better job with their core UI, and add-ons should be little more than skinning options. They should have listened to player input for feature additions rather than just farming that out to voluneers. This is part of my #1 biggest problem with Blizzard and WoW: they greedily hoard all their money and invest VERY LITTLE back into the game.

    A few months ago they admitted to only spending $200 million on WoW since its release… on everything… right down to janitors and electricity. That’s a disgrace. They practically make that every month.

  21. Adam says:

    Using the law to beat over the head people who discover flaws in your basic business model / acumen is the last refuge of those who recognize their own incompetence but would rather not go to the effort of raising their own quality bar.

    Blizzard seems to be making a habit of it.

    What does that tell you? (other than that you should think twice about joining their company if this is the attitude they take; what must their internal culture look like today with this external reflection?)

  22. Heartless_ says:

    Scott, how do you feel about free games that are ad supported? And I’m not talking about Srabulous Facebook app type games, but something ala Quake Live.

  23. […] people have queued up to defend them, the history of their actions against Glider, and now this absurd crackdown on World of Warcraft add-on authors, have left me with a sour taste in the […]

  24. Angelworks says:

    I actually quit playing counterstrike when they started putting ads in game. If wow did that – yeah that would be the end for me.

  25. Athryn says:

    I am disappointed by Blizzard’s new policy, specifically with regards to asking for donations in game. Many mod authors start out as hobbyists, but end up feeling obligated to their communities, especially if their mod becomes very popular. I can understand why Blizzard doesn’t want them to charge, but there should be some way to easily remind people to donate, because with all the mod aggregators out there, few people visit the actual mod author’s page to donate.

  26. I’m of two minds about the whole issue. Ultimately, it’s Blizzard’s ball and they can do whatever they want with it. But, that doesn’t mean they’re making the right choice.

    I mostly agree with Scott’s analysis above. I think advertising isn’t so cut-and-dried, though. I could definitely see them not wanting some types of ads (gold farmer ads, etc). But, I think this is a potentially self-correcting problem; if the ads are too obnoxious or offensive, people would stop using the addon. Making sure that ads are labeled with which addon they come from would be a good step. But, as people point out, enforcement is an entirely separate issue; it’s probably easier just to say “don’t” and go on.

    I’m also unsure about the “no asking for donations in game”. As the guy who made QuestHelper said in a thread on Slashdot:

    Depending on how you count it, adding a simple unobtrusive message on logon saying “hey we’re donation-supported, if you really like QH please donate” increased income anywhere from five-fold to hundred-fold.

    So, a little logon message made a large difference for him, even though it’s hardly a nag. This is a significant change, with an unclear goal. Stating that an addon could have one reminder message at login and/or a link to donations from the “about” information seems reasonable. Again, it’s probably one of those things where it’s easier to simply forbid it all rather than having to deal with all possible issues.

    In the end, Blizzard probably won’t be affected. While QuestHelper may go dormant and Carbonite falls by the wayside, there will probably be others eager to take their place. The guy currently doing QuestHelper actually took over the project from someone else. I figure, just like the games industry in general, that when the cranky old guy wants too much money there’s always some young buck willing to do it for the chance to “do games”. Being able to brag that you work on a mod that has “more users than some MMOs” is something a lot of people would love to do.

    Muckbeast wrote:
    “A few months ago they admitted to only spending $200 million on WoW since its release… on everything… right down to janitors and electricity.”

    Got a reference for that? It’s not too far outside of what I’d expect, to be honest; there are some obvious reasons why “Activision Blizzard” is 1) not out of business, and 2) not called “Activision Vivendi”.

  27. Duncan says:

    How is this going to be enforced? Suing the developers? Are they going to detect and disable the addon when you log on? Ban users who carry on using them anyway?

  28. Mist says:

    Caleb :
    The difference is, Mist, that Car companies don’t regularly make free upgrades to enhance the usability of your car and remove all problems with it that you have been having.
    I don’t see anyone raising a stink over addons to single player games, and rightfully so. I think daniel hit the nail on the head. They have gone further than any other MMO company EVER in accommodating addon developers. But ultimately they need control over their own content, and this, they see, is needed for that control.

    Neither do most software companies. Some do, especially gaming companies. But a lot of enterprise level software does NOT give you free updates or bug fixes.

    Separately, I also think disallowing donation solicitation is probably the dumbest move of all in this.

  29. hitnrun says:

    Disallowing donation solicitation is the only dumb move in this, IMO.

    WoW was the first MMO with a robust (and permitted) modding environment and community. In return for allowing people to modify the game code and cultivate their own little communities and reputations in the most visible game on the planet, Blizzard has the right to dictate some basic parameters under which their game is played.

    They did it two years ago before BC, when they ended all the mod processes which had essentially become hacks and made entire classes worthless. Everyone whined irrelevantly about censorship, fascism, and copyright law back then. This time they’re just saying “you can’t sell ads in our game.” Seems pretty straightforward to me. Even banning in-game solicitations could be justified when you consider that they’re a phishing attack waiting to happen.

  30. Adam says:

    @Brian – “In the end, Blizzard probably won’t be affected.”

    I disagree. The weight of evidence of mod communities tipping the balance of everything from keeping the product fresh to recruiting innovative dev teams to shoring up brand loyalty … suggests to me that they certainly will be affected.

    We probably won’t see the effects, and it’ll take time to kick in, but I reckon that a few years now, looking back at their metrics, Blizzard will be able to.

  31. Adam says:

    Also, I think this stuff has a non-zero effect on Blizzard’s in-industry-recruitment (i.e. discounting the hobbyist recruitment, and looking only at the mainstream stuff picking up professionals).

    http://t-machine.org/index.php/2009/03/22/culture-reputation-and-running-a-game-studio/

  32. Iconic says:

    I don’t understand the silly comparisons between Blizzard and other companies. GM or Ford voids your warranty if you use certain after market mods. If they could legally void it for using non brand parts, they’d probably do that too.

    Blizzard is doing this to control their brand. Companies do this stuff all of the time, and they always look like douche bags by doing it, but I guess they reason that they’re heading off larger issues down the road.

  33. Trife says:

    Makes me kinda glad I don’t play WoW anymore… and I was actually intrigued by mods, now I’d never develop them for them. The real question is, how can they enforce these things?

    Doesn’t make sense that you cannot sell ads in their game, the people who download and use the mods are accepting these terms themselves. It will hinder addons in the long run, as it’s like saying you aren’t allowed to write programs in our programming language and sell them for money.

  34. Hely says:

    This policy change didn’t occur until carbonite “bugged” the free version and then only had a paid version and ad version. The ads have an unmovable, unresizeable frame that showed up every 5 mins. They made it as annoying as possible. It did affect game play.

    You can argue that they(carbonite) can do that till pigs fly. Ultimately, it’s Blizzards game. Their are a lot of stupid users. Who do you think they will blame for being annoyed and ads affecting game play? Blizzard that’s who.

    What if those mods become required mods like decursive? Sure you don’t have to install it, but not installing it will lock you out of a lot of guilds. Also, a lot of kids play this game. Kids have an allowance. What if their allowance doesn’t cover WoW and those for pay only required mods?

    Look at the Olympics. If Nike is an Olympic sponsor, and you go to an event with an Addias logo on your shirt, You have to cover it up or remove your shirt. The same can be said for WoW and Carbonite. If Coke sponsors WoW, Pepsi will sponsor carbonite to get Pepsi ads in WoW. That would be in violation of the Coke and WoW deal.

    As it has been stated before their are lots of reasons for this move. I don’t think Blizzard had a problem with add on authors having donation info in the about section of their add ons. I don’t think they even had a problem with Questhelper having donation info in the chat frame. From my understanding QH has been doing it for a while now. They did have a problem with carbonite and its for pay and ads version.

    Blizzard saw where this was going and they had to move to protect their investment. I can’t blame them for that. In order to do that they had to cover everything. They couldn’t single out carbonite.

  35. Wanderer says:

    Sullee :At worst they are trojan\virus laden malware.

    I just have to address this point quickly: No, addons are not — and cannot be — “trojan/virus laden malware”. They are scripts that run within the WoW client, and can only do what their host program allows them to do. They can call functions from the WoW addon API. They can’t write to files other than their own data files, they can’t launch other programs, they can’t communicate with anything outside of the WoW client. A WoW addon isn’t doing anything on its own; it’s telling the WoW client to do things, and only those things that the WoW client is designed to let the addon do.

    Yes, there are cases where people have been tricked into downloading and running executable programs in conjunction with addons, but it was those executables, not the addons, that were the malware. Some people stubbornly refuse to practice safe hex. I’ve seen people tricked into installing malware in conjunction with graphics files (the old naked_celebrity.jpg.exe trick) too, but that doesn’t mean that graphics files are dangerous, it means that idiots shouldn’t be allowed to use computers without supervision.

    I think the prohibition on paid addons is simply a level playing field issue. For the sake of fairness, every player should be able to use any addon if they want. There should not be two tiers of players, one for players who can afford to buy third-party addons and the other for ones who don’t.

    Another reason is probably exactly what’s going on with the QH crybaby: Blizzard changes something (in this case the rules, but it could easily be the API, or incorporating an addon in to the default UI) which makes the addon nonfunctional or unnecessary. If it’s just something we’re doing as a hobby, no big deal. If someone is making a living off of it then they have the motivation, and possibly the grounds, to sue Blizzard for tortious interference with business, estoppel, and various other mysterious words (note: IANAL). At the very least it will cost Blizzard money and grief to defend against the suit, and most likely result in them just shutting off addons entirely in order to avoid future problems. Then we all lose.

  36. Wanderer says:

    Trife :…it’s like saying you aren’t allowed to write programs in our programming language and sell them for money.

    Look at the license for the entry-level versions of a lot of compilers. You might be unpleasantly surprised.

  37. […] Entertainment’s new add-on policy has been discussed by everyone from Lum to Slashdot. The number of developers directly affected by the change is small, since only a few […]

  38. Klaitu says:

    The fact that the default UI is so pathetic that the game requires addons in order to play it says a lot about WoW’s design.

  39. Brent Michael Krupp says:

    The default UI is perfectly fine for the legions of beginners that play the game. It simply isn’t that bad if you’re new to the genre anyway.

    Once you get all serious about the game you can download UI improvements but a beginner would just be confused by most of them.

  40. Hely says:

    This issue reminds me of the UO and volunteer adviser issue. It ended up in a lawsuit.

    I’m certain this issue will as well. Carbonite went so far as to form their own LLC.

    One thing you can count on is: When one company’s money it threatened by another company, lawsuits happen. Like the UO/Adviser issue it’ll have game changing implications.

  41. Trife says:

    Wanderer :

    Trife :…it’s like saying you aren’t allowed to write programs in our programming language and sell them for money.

    Look at the license for the entry-level versions of a lot of compilers. You might be unpleasantly surprised.

    Compilers, sure, I still wouldn’t be happy with it. I guess I just hate the legal wrangling.

    What I do wonder more is: are they going to sue people who would try to sell their addons or solicit donations? They would actually have to prove some tangible monetary loss to seek damages, and it would just be another thing for their staff to have to sort through, reports of addons being sold, or soliciting donations.

    Either way a nice big protest by major addon developers could potentially have an impact on the game itself.

    Sure Blizzard improved their interface a lot since vanilla, mostly copying addons to satisfy the common need of various things, like an improved raid interface, combat text, and tons of other things. The addon community helps keep WoW going smoothly.

  42. D-0ne says:

    I find great irony in how dependant Blizzard is on “free for Blizzard” UI modifications and now Blizzard wants to stop the same community Blizzard created from fully developing/evolving into its full potential.

    It’s no different that the auto industry going after every after market spark plug, air filter, belt, and radiator hose manufacturer.

    Good luck with that Blizzard.

  43. Mark Asher says:

    Adam :
    @Brian – “In the end, Blizzard probably won’t be affected.”
    I disagree. The weight of evidence of mod communities tipping the balance of everything from keeping the product fresh to recruiting innovative dev teams to shoring up brand loyalty … suggests to me that they certainly will be affected.
    We probably won’t see the effects, and it’ll take time to kick in, but I reckon that a few years now, looking back at their metrics, Blizzard will be able to.

    I think WoW is essentially bulletproof until a real competitor comes along. People will pick up the mod work. People made mods back when the game was smaller. People made mods just to make them.

    And when that new competitor comes along, I suspect they will have a similar modding policy. No game company is going to be comfortable with third-parties soliciting for business within the game.

  44. Wanderer says:

    Why does the addon community’s “full potential” require some addons be limited to people who can and will pay for them?

    Here’s another way to look at it: As long as addon development is a hobby, it’s open to anyone who wants to do it. If someone has a good idea, they can implement it as an addon, and if players like it, it’ll get used. Turn it into a profit-driven venture, and you’ll see addon companies producing things which either incorporate the best ideas and code that hobbyists produce, or actively block addons from other sources, or, at the very least, since they have full-time developers, reach the point where they become the giant tree that shades out the seedlings. Instead of the thriving, vibrant addon development community we have today, with every possible idea being turned into an addon by people doing it for the love of it, we’d have the a few big for-profit companies and a handful of hobbyists still coding out of stubbornness and nostalgia, and perhaps a hope that they’ll invent the Next Big Thing and be able to make WoW players pay them, too, to be able to play the game.

    Is that really what you want to see? A world in which you not only have to pay Blizzard but you have to pay several addon companies as well, in which they fight code wars to break each other’s functionality with your WoW client as the battlefield (anyone remember Microsoft vs. Lotus?), and in which today’s thriving, wide-open community of addon developers is only a memory? If that is the “full potential” of the addon community, I hope like hell they never evolve into it.

  45. Triforcer says:

    I’m disappointed that nobody has mentioned their constitutional rights yet. Or how this is sort of just as bad as fascism. Come on, Internet, you haven’t let me down me yet!!

  46. […] That approach does work. For a traditional Diku-style MMO, however, you’d open yourself up to worries about RMT; once you open the door to micropayments, people start getting agitated. […]

  47. Mercury says:

    Comedy gold, people. You seriously can’t make up stuff better than this.

    American capitalism (and software in particular) is based heavily on opportunity. You see a demand for something legal, come up with a way to supply it, you make money. It’s so deeply ingrained into our society that most of us take it for granted.

    But now your widget violates the new terms, which causes your customers to make an infringing copy of the game in RAM when they start it. Rut-ro! Yesterday, you were selling your product to a customer that was happy to buy it or donate. Today, you’re a secondary infringer. Of course, if you persist in protecting your income stream, they can simply update Warden to send up that mod list. Now you’re in for DMCA and tortious. Somebody’s got to pay those 13 analysts and 20-hrs/week Warden guy, so why not you?

    Maybe it would seem like less bullshit if they had rolled out the gate with those terms. Of course, then they wouldn’t have had some seriously good mods created. It’s not even debatable that some of the mods have grown to the quality of commercial software, which surprises nobody. The only surprising thing is Blizzard deciding that add-ons are not a right, but a privilege.

    Way too much post-sale control of the product.

  48. Einherjer says:

    Blizzard was all fun and games when modders were just pipmpled faced geeks coding in their parents basement.

    When the pimpled face geek got some clearasil, a suit and moved to an office downtown he becomes a threat. Those guys usually can afford a good lawyer and even with a ToS in place you never know what can happen due to Blizzard’s long history of using their community ideas without paying a single cent.

  49. EpicSquirt says:

    Is there a special software licence the addons have to be in?

  50. […] posts new WoW add-on policy Found here. Sadly, Scott wrote a post about it first. I’m going to write up my own thoughts anyway, because I often operate under delusions of […]

  51. D-0ne says:

    Wanderer :
    Why does the addon community’s “full potential” require some addons be limited to people who can and will pay for them?

    Ford here. We’ve decided to start licensing our cars rather than selling them. It’s no problem for you at all. Just sign this EULA and enjoy your new car! It’s only fair!

    No, you can’t sell it. No, only one dependent child may ride in it. No, your wife will have to buy her own licensed car. No, you can’t do anything but put gas in it and change the oil, everything else is ours.

    If you want spark plugs for your car you have to use the one’s that came in the car or the free ones, no other choices allowed.

    What you don’t want to sign a licensing agreement for a car? To bad, all the other car makers are only selling car licensing deals too. It’s not a conspiracy, just ask the software industry!

  52. Tesh says:

    @Brian “Psychochild” Green,
    The $200 million is a fairly well reported number. A quick Google search turned up a handful of articles, Kotaku and WoWInsider being a couple of the bigger ones reporting on it.

    As for the topic at hand, I’m not really bothered by tamping down on the addons, since they have made the game itself more susceptible to metagaming and crutches. That said, Blizzard has enabled these bits of software, so turning on them seems a bit… ungracious.

  53. Iconic says:

    “Why does the addon community’s “full potential” require some addons be limited to people who can and will pay for them?”

    Basic economics. People have choices about how they spend their time. Making something people like has value to some, making something people like and will pay you do make more of has value to others. When you limit the ability to get paid, you limit the people who can or want to create those great products.

  54. Ardanna says:

    Maybe Blizzard is planning on creating and charging for their own add-ons. Some fancy new features (or… Quest-Helper like interface?) for $1.00 or some pack of add-ons for a couple bucks a month? EQ2 already has similar functionality for their websites, you get the basics for free but for a couple bucks you get enhanced features – taking the leap to in-game enhancements doesn’t seem that far off.

    Also what, if anything, does this mean for other products that make money off of WoW? I’m thinking specifically of iPhone apps. If a developer puts up any number of applications and charges a couple bucks for it is Blizzard going to be upset with that… it’s not impacting gaming experience but it doesn’t seem that far a leap.

  55. hitnrun says:

    I don’t think the iPhone apps are prohibited under this since they’re not mods. Blizzard is more than within their rights to close down anything making money off WoW, but this is clearly about things that effect the actual game.

    And I really doubt any of this has to do with Blizzard killing off potential “competition” for their upcoming “ADIDAS Presents General Marcus Jonathan (Standing Under This Banner You Fucking Newb)” ad campaign, or a plan to charge for their own mods. As strange as it seems to MMO enthusiasts like us, the general public already considers MMOs to be an over-monetized scam as it is. I doubt Blizzard is going to do anything to rock the boat and encourage people to give their competition a shot when they’re making a hundred million a month, give or take, from this one product.

  56. Iconic says:

    @D-0ne

    That’s called a “lease” or a “rental.”

  57. Mark Asher says:

    So what is the law? I can’t sell WoW t-shirts without an agreement with Blizzard. That’s clear. But I can write code that needs WoW to work and have value, and that doesn’t need Blizzard’s approval?

    I don’t think Blizzard is worried about competition. I think they are worried about their product being damaged. Why do I want to see in-game ads? I know some of the comments have said that the in-game nags for donations were minor, but that’s for now. Some modder feels he isn’t getting enough revenue, he increases the nagging. I don’t really see how Blizzard can open the door to in-game adverts and expect to control it.

    I think this is more of a case of the modders shooting themselves in the foot. It wasn’t enough to ask for donations at the websites. They had to start asking in-game. Did anyone really think Blizzard was going to think that ok if it became the norm?

  58. Jeff says:

    I don’t understand why Quest Helper guy is stopping.

    Can’t he just ask for donations when we download the latest version?

  59. Wanderer says:

    Iconic :
    “Why does the addon community’s “full potential” require some addons be limited to people who can and will pay for them?”
    Basic economics. People have choices about how they spend their time. Making something people like has value to some, making something people like and will pay you do make more of has value to others. When you limit the ability to get paid, you limit the people who can or want to create those great products.

    You did not, however, answer my question: Why is it necessary that some addons be limited to only people who can afford to pay for them in order for the addon community to reach its full potential?

    There is no dearth of addons; quite the opposite, in fact. The community is thriving. People have created addons to do just about anything you can imagine. What, exactly, are we missing that we will magically get when we can only have addons if we pay for them? How will the game be better for all of us when we not only have to pay our fifteen bucks a month for WoW, but we have to pay for QH and Omen and DBM and FooBar and all the other addons we depend on? How will the game be more fair to everyone when some people can have good addons because they have another thirty or forty or fifty bucks a month to spend paying for them, and other people can’t afford the same level of WoW experience? How will the game be better when addon code is obfuscated, so that we can’t tell if it’s going to mail all our gold to I.G.E.? (I’ve seen something like that happen in another game) How will addon makers be better off if they can’t learn by studying other people’s addons? How will it be better if addon writers become adversaries instead of colleagues, jealously guarding their secrets to protect their profits? How will it be better for all of us if, when an addon is no longer maintained by someone who doesn’t find it worthwhile (or gets run over by a bus, for that matter), nobody can do what the QH crybaby did and pick it up and continue it?

    Pay-to-play addons benefit a handful of people, and those people only: the ones who are selling them.

    In the long run, turning addon writing into a business instead of part of the hobby will hurt the players, it will hurt the non-commercial addon makers, and it will hurt Blizzard, possibly to the point where they just get shed of the whole problem by getting rid of addons completely. That doesn’t sound like “full potential” to me.

  60. Mark Asher says:

    Jeff :
    I don’t understand why Quest Helper guy is stopping.
    Can’t he just ask for donations when we download the latest version?

    Yes, but he wants to be able to pop up a donation nag message in the game, or something like that. Maybe every time you complete a quest, Questhelper will ask you for money.

    Basically, the modders who have been getting donations say they will get fewer donations if they can’t ask for money in-game. This is probably true.

  61. Jeff says:

    Mark Asher :

    Jeff :I don’t understand why Quest Helper guy is stopping.Can’t he just ask for donations when we download the latest version?

    Yes, but he wants to be able to pop up a donation nag message in the game, or something like that. Maybe every time you complete a quest, Questhelper will ask you for money.
    Basically, the modders who have been getting donations say they will get fewer donations if they can’t ask for money in-game. This is probably true.

    Okay, I get that. But with something as popular as quest helper it certainly won’t kill all his income. Why the “I’m taking my ball and going home” reaction? Sure it must be nice to turn writing a mod into a full time job, but it can’t take all THAT much time to keep a mod up to date, can it?

  62. Iconic says:

    @Wanderer

    Your post is nonsense, and I’m not sure who it is that you’re trying to argue against.

    The only thing that most people seem opposed to is the concept of not allowing people to charge for their own work and/or ask for donations within the addon that they wrote. Allowing people to profit from their work is an incentive for them to provide new addons, so taking away that incentive naturally is going to limit the kinds of projects that people are willing to commit to.

    Blizzard is trying to cover its own butt, and that’s predictable corporate behavior. That doesn’t mean that it has no negative consequence for the players or the addon community.

  63. D-0ne says:

    Iconic :
    @D-0ne
    That’s called a “lease” or a “rental.”

    Completely different that a software license agreement. You really don’t understand how one sided a software licensing agreement is do you? You actually compared it to a automotive lease agreement… BWAHAHAHA!

  64. Phoe says:

    Blizzard has the same rules lined out in their War3 editor, that no one can ask for or receive money for maps created in the world editor. But DotA makes a lot of money, and they haven’t cracked down on them yet(possibly because DotA is the reason War3 is still played). So who knows, maybe it’s just a lot of hot air being blown at the community.

  65. IainC says:

    Phoe :
    Blizzard has the same rules lined out in their War3 editor, that no one can ask for or receive money for maps created in the world editor.

    Either you’ve misreported the rules for the WC3 editor or they aren’t the same rules. You can receive money for mods as long as you:

    A: Make it available without a compulsory fee
    B: Don’t have it ask for money ingame.

    So you can still take money for modding as long as you let people have the mod for free if they like and you only ask for cash out of game.

  66. Wrathshield says:

    As an add-on user, if I choose to use an add-on and the advertising bothers me ………..uh…………I just delete it and use something else?

    But, does WOW have some perceived control over all this, legal, TOS, copywrite, etc? I will watch how it plays out.

  67. no hands says:

    @Wrathshield
    You’re making the assumption that all users of add-on X with ads for porn site Y know that add-on X is responsible for those ads. I am less confident that even half of the users of an add-on will understand that all they need to do is remove the add-on, and suspect that many will complain to Blizz, who will then spend Z dollars in support informing these people that no, Blizz does not approve of kink-site Y, did not put this ad in the game, and only supports user-generated kink found in Goldshire.

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