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Blizzard claims it shut down classic World of Warcraft server to protect its intellectual property

Earlier this month, Blizzard shut down the third-party vanilla World of Warcraft server, Nostalrius. Nostalrius was a user-created project that ran a version of WoW that’s impossible to play today — the vanilla game that existed just before The Burning Crusade was released back in 2007.

Today, World of Warcraft’s executive producer and vice president, J. Allen Brack, released a substantial community post addressing the issues and concerns surrounding the shutdown of the Nostalrius server. He writes:

Why not just let Nostalrius continue the way it was? The honest answer is, failure to protect against intellectual property infringement would damage Blizzard’s rights. This applies to anything that uses WoW’s IP, including unofficial servers. And while we’ve looked into the possibility – there is not a clear legal path to protect Blizzard’s IP and grant an operating license to a pirate server.

Brack goes on to note that classic servers could not be operated without “great difficulty” and that the game authors have considered a “Pristine Realm” option that would ” turn off all leveling acceleration including character transfers, heirloom gear, character boosts, Recruit-A-Friend bonuses, WoW Token, and access to cross realm zones, as well as group finder.” Note, however, that this pristine realm would presumably still run under current WoW rules and be upgraded to the latest version of the game.

It’s not clear why running classic servers would be so incredibly difficult, but we can hazard some guesses. For one thing, it’s not clear if Blizzard even has the original codebase it worked on back then. For another, the WoW client and server software has been steadily upgraded and transitioned over the past nine years. Any attempt to run the “classic” code on a modern server could run into problems, and porting the classic code into the modern engine would present its own issues. The fact that Nostalrius worked at all is a testament to the dedication of the small team of developers that made it possible, but the bug tracker reports from Nostalrius make it clear just how many minor (and not-so-minor) issues were still being worked out.


Building classic servers may be a significant undertaking, but with WoW continuing to shed subscribers, it could also bring people back to the game. For now, Blizzard isn’t considering that option, but it’s also in discussions with the Nostalrius team and it’s possible that their efforts could be the beginning of Blizzard being willing to take up the project.

Personally, I wouldn’t want to return to the pre-TBC era, since my main character was a Paladin and Paladins were notoriously underutilized back in the day (as were Druids and, to a lesser extent, Shaman). But I’d be quite interested in servers that offered an option to stop at TBC or Wrath of the Lich King — which may actually be part of the problem. Once WoW offers a classic server, why not offer all the expansions in their own servers? Clearly, that’s untenable.

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