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Blizzard wins lawsuit against  World of Warcraft  bot company
Blizzard wins lawsuit against World of Warcraft bot company
October 21, 2013 | By Mike Rose

October 21, 2013 | By Mike Rose
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    25 comments
More: Console/PC, Business/Marketing



Newsbrief: After two years of legal battling, a company that provides exploitative bot capabilities for Blizzard's World of Warcraft MMO has been forced to cease operations, and pay Blizzard $7 million in damages.

Blizzard initially filed a lawsuit against Ceiling Fan Software back in 2011. The company provides a method for WoW players to keep playing the game even when they are away from their computer, and essentially exploit the game's reward system.

On the company's website, Ceiling Fan co-founder Josh Becker explained that the ruling from the U.S. District Court in California last week means that the company can no longer offer the botting products, and that it has been forced to shut down.


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Comments


Curtiss Murphy
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Two years to resolve this? At least there's now a precedent.

Edison Henrique andreassy
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The precedent is http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MDY_Indus._LLC_v._Blizzard_Entm%27t,
_Inc.

Jeremy Helgevold
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I hope they take the 7 million and give it to the Hearthstone developers as bonuses.

Alan Boody
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It'll go as a bonus to the executives.

Booby K
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The company generated only revenue of around $289,000 (reported in early 2013). I also read the company was asking it fans to help pay for legal costs.

I seriously doubt Ceiling Fan Software has $7 million to pay the judgment. Good luck to Blizzard collecting the entire judgment of $7 million.

Peter Eisenmann
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I'd rather say good luck to Ceiling Fan owners. I guess they'll need it desperately.

Ramin Shokrizade
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I have to point out that these bots are used to exploit the reward mechanisms because the reward mechanisms in this game reward 24 hour play, which I think are socially and physiologically destructive. If you stop rewarding 24 hour play, people will stop trying to play for 24 hours a day. Blizzard puts the cheese down in the wrong place then uses lawyers to stop people from getting that cheese without hurting themselves.

I'm no fan of bots, certainly, but given my background in exercise physiology, I believe the best way to stop disease is to stop it at the source, not try to cover up the symptoms with medicines that may have side effects that are just as harmful.

E Zachary Knight
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This is exactly what Blizzard and other MMO developers should be learning, but sadly aren't.

Brandon Binkley
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This is the very thing I hold against modern MMO design and subscription rates - that it encourages 24-hour play.

The problem is that existing games are built on the model of rewarding time play and addressing the core issue requires significant structural changes which I imagine no development team wants to dive into.

The other aspect of the problem is that as an industry we tend to adapt working models from existing products or take small steps of evolution. Major leaps in evolving gaming models or completely revolutionizing is kryptonite to investors and MMOs are too big to tackle for self-financed start ups who might fancy that leap into uncharted territory.

Ramin Shokrizade
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Brandon, your comments apply broadly to the industry when it comes to innovation. Innovation involves risk and the industry is in a period of risk adversity. Ironically, this causes investors to all try to copy those products that are perceived as profitable, creating enough competition to theoretically drop profits in those markets to zero (or less, which is more typical).

David Fried
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The irony is that in China, you aren't allowed to play WoW 24 hours a day. The government required certain measures to be implemented in the game to reduce character effectiveness after 3 hours of play, and reduce it dramatically after 5 hours.

Read more about that here: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/technology/4183340.stm

I guess that's an example of a government taking a crack at design. I'm sure we could come up with better methods. ;)

As to Blizzard, they do have a positive spin on it, whereby if your character is "rested" you get an xp bonus, but obviously that doesn't go far enough, and was only put in as a reversal of the typical xp penalty most games give in order to slow your progress through their content. -_-

Rich Chatwin
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What you're proposing sounds sensible, but practically would be difficult to implement, given WoW's global fanbase.

The game is available to play for 24hrs a day because it has to be up 24 hours a day, because it services the whole world.

Could you perhaps block people based on their IP address or something similar? Perhaps. But then you get into the realms of deciding people's actions for them.

Why allow cigarettes to be sold if they're nothing but harmful ,etc.

Isaac Knowles
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It's an interesting study in game theory to think about what Blizzard's optimal level of bot enforcement and RMT banning really is. Joshua Fairfield, a legal scholar in virtual worlds, pointed out a long time ago that the profit-maximizing amount of RMT and botting is probably not zero [1]. What's less clear is whether the game that is most fun is the one with no RMT and no botting. In any event, I suspect this lawsuit was more about keeping botting and RMT at low-but-profitable levels than it was about than it was about making WoW the most fun for the most people.

[1] http://web.archive.org/web/20071011115736/http://virtual-economy.
org/blog/the_efficient_level_of_rmt_in_

Ramin Shokrizade
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That was an interesting read, but while I can see the advantages of modeling RMT dynamics in this simple fashion, I found in my research that my results were always ambiguous until I modeled RMT both *qualitatively* and quantitatively. Here it is modeled only quantitatively and all RMT types are treated as one. Again this is simplistic but imo not all that useful.

Once you start qualifying RMT activity like I did in 2011 I think you get much better results:
http://gameful.org/group/games-for-change/forum/topics/real-money
-transfer-classification

I am generally opposed to RMT1 and RMT3 (the former has some uses), but very much in support of RMT2 as I feel the gains from player interaction are net positive in those cases. It seems like in this article the focus is mostly on RMT3 but the possibility of RMT2 is confusing the participants, and RMT1 is not being considered at all.

Isaac Knowles
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In what sense are you using the word "results?" Results of what?

Ramin Shokrizade
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That is too broad a question for here, but for instance consumer propensity to spend and resist churn is much more tightly linked to the presence of RMT2 than the other types. Games with RMT2 seem to be far above average in these categories where games with RMT1 and RMT3 are far below average.

I should add that I offered to share my work with your mentor, Dr. Castronova, 3.5 years ago and he told me I needed psychological help for suggesting I could assist him. Thus the opportunity for my work to be publicly funded and distributed was squandered. Now I am in private industry and feel I am being generous with producing the public papers I have so far, close to 50 in the last two years. The "results" you seek are going to stay proprietary for at least a few years but you will see the results in the products I am assigned to.

Isaac Knowles
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I see. Well, could you at least share your source of data for RMT3? After all, it is notoriously difficult to measure the volume of unsanctioned trade in virtual assets for any game. And, of course, it would be important to control for that quantity in order to establish the causal relationship you say exists between RMT2, churn, and player value. Such data would at least afford others the opportunity to verify your hypothesis, which would only improve your reputation in the industry.

As for your second, utterly irrelevant paragraph: Are you seriously suggesting that I should bemoan the day that an academic purportedly rejected your offer for "help", because then your research would be public? Well, I don't. After all, how could I know what I'm missing if you don't show it to me?

Ramin Shokrizade
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Isaac,

I think since you are linked to me on LinkedIn you will see that I have contacts in the RMT3 business that share with me their proprietary information on what they sell, when, how, etc. This kind of information would be damaging to them if it was made public. They make it public to me as a courtesy because I share privileged information in return, and because they know I will keep their trade secrets... secret. I don't really have any need to have my work checked by anyone but my work superiors and my company's business intelligence team, which is quite rigorous.

My papers are published as is, if you don't like them I'm certainly not making you read them, though I am honored that you respond to all of them.

Isaac Knowles
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If you say so, Ramin. How would I know?

Ramin Shokrizade
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Isaac, we can go on like this for years. I would rather we handled this privately but I'm happy to elaborate here because it might serve some public good. I try to model my work after the methods of the people I have been inspired by. Those would include Adam Smith and Henry Jenkins.

Adam Smith spent 30 years as the top academic in the English Empire, and little information from around the world did not go under his nose. After 30 years he had acquired enough high altitude understanding that he wrote Wealth of Nations. It had little if any charts. He was not trying to prove anything, he was doing his best to explain how the world works. His opinions are still being debated to this day but his insights were so powerful that they made so much intuitive sense that they spawned the modern science of economics.

Henry Jenkins is such a trusted figure in the larger media sphere that when he writes a book and gives his insights people read it and appreciate what he has to share. People all over the world trust him and share with him in confidence what they are doing (I'm one of them) and thus he can see the bigger picture because he has access to so much data.

He is an information Nexus, just like Adam Smith was.

Now here I've been in the trenches studying this new field of virtual economics and writing about it in since April of 2000, making me the most experienced person in this field by pure chronology. I have seniority, so I don't have to respond to you just like Castronova did not have to respond to me, and Jenkins did not have to respond to me. But Jenkins did respond to me, and I am responding to you. You are not my enemy. By challenging me you make me better at what I do.

That said, I've paid my dues and I'm the top nexus of information in this field that you are also studying. I will always respond to you, though maybe not in the way you want me to. If you don't trust my opinions then don't, I'm totally fine with that. These days I don't crunch numbers anymore, I have 5 PhD's that are paid to do that for me and honestly they are better at it than I am. If I make a mistake, trust me they let me know. You know I can't give you that data, and you said yourself that good data is very hard to get in the public space.

That does not mean it is not out there, but just that it is going to stay private and as academics I understand how frustrating this is. I apologize, this is part of the current academic/industry dynamic and it will get worse before it gets better.

Isaac Knowles
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I hope you'll excuse my impertinence. As a scientist, I'm trained to doubt unsubstantiated claims to knowledge. It's nothing personal; I'm just not going to take your word for it.

But fair enough. For my dogmatic insistence on evidence that RMT2 maximizes revenue and minimizes churn, I am punished by continued ignorance. So much is my loss.

Luis Blondet
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"I have to point out that these bots are used to exploit the reward mechanisms because the reward mechanisms in this game reward 24 hour play, which I think are socially and physiologically destructive. If you stop rewarding 24 hour play, people will stop trying to play for 24 hours a day. Blizzard puts the cheese down in the wrong place then uses lawyers to stop people from getting that cheese without hurting themselves."

-Ramin Shokrizade

This. A thousand times, This.

Katy Smith
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I hear a lot about how WoW is damaging because it allows for 24 hour gameplay. However, one thing I liked about WoW was that I could, at any time I wanted to, start the game and have something to do. Plus, so much of the "grindy" stuff is optional. I would be interested in hearing any suggestions on how to keep the "pick up and have something to do " aspect of the game without needing bots, or causing "psychological damage" to players.

Eric Salmon
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For me, the subscription is the biggest problem. Mention a thing about it on forums and you get spouted at about "$0.50 cent a day, go collect cans hobo!" but the issue isn't the money.

Subscription fees have the effect of stressing me into getting as much done in as small a space of time as possible. I don't play subscription games anymore for that reason, personally--not because it's too much money for the amount of content or anything, but because the monetization choice makes the game less fun for me even if the design of the game is unaffected. I feel the same about free-to-play games because a few bad designs have soured me on the whole thing, so while I paid for Plants vs Zombies and Ninjatown and would have paid for their successors, I haven't played their newer incarnations despite being free.

I'm obviously in the minority here, but I thought I'd mention it.

Heliora Prime
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That's like closing down the McDonalds because people are getting to fat.

Always fun to read new original excuses for a lack of DICIPLINE and common sense.


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