Blizzard Blocking Iranian WoW Players Due To US Sanctions

from the that-will-teach-them dept

A ways back I noted a rather nice story about Israeli and Iranian citizens using the internet and social media to reach out and express solidarity with one another, despite their governments' differences. I found it rather encouraging that political rhetoric from both sides could be dismissed in favor of a humanist approach, no matter the vulgar generalizations each side might hear about the other. If you weren't already aware, despite the rivalry of the two nations, United States citizens and Iranians have had ways to interact over the internet as well, such as through online gaming platforms like World Of Warcraft. That is, they were able to do so, until the US government made more noise recently about the sanctions in Iran and Blizzard finally blocked Iranian users.


“I want you!!! …to enjoy the Mists of Pandaria Persian-free.”


CNN has the story of how, due to sanctions against Iran, Blizzard was forced to block gamers from Iran from playing WoW. Apparently the renewed pressure on trade with Iran resulted in this block.

Last week, a user claiming to be from Iran posted on an official World of Warcraft forum to report that the game was inaccessible. A Blizzard employee responded to the thread on Saturday, writing that “United States trade restrictions and economic sanction laws prohibit Blizzard from doing business with residents of certain nations, including Iran.”

“This week, Blizzard tightened up its procedures to ensure compliance with these laws, and players connecting from the affected nations are restricted from access to Blizzard games and services,” the employee said.

In a fun little addendum, the Blizzard employee also mentioned that the company is unable to refund subscriptions as well.



You can have your rials back when you pry them from our cold dead fingers…

Image source. CC BY 2.0

Now, perhaps it's just me, but color me confused as to how sanctions against Iran need to be broad enough that online gaming is caught in the mix. Perhaps more importantly, as both parties like to make a lot of noise about “internet freedom” and its application to broadening freedom and Democracy in nations that enjoy little of both, does this result from our sanctions jive with how our State Department seems to want to encourage governments around the world to allow open communication through the internet and social media? While I understand the occasional need to punish a bad government through trade sanctions, this particular result doesn't seem to do that at all. Instead, it only cuts Iranians off from those that could tell them how great freedom is.
 

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Comments on “Blizzard Blocking Iranian WoW Players Due To US Sanctions”

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96 Comments
Anonymoussays:

Re: Re:

How about properly targeted sanctions? Do the mad mullahs in Iran play WoW? No, they are focused on their religious doctrine. Target the actual bad guys. Leave the innocent bystanders alone. When is USA going to learn, hit your enemies, be nice to your friends. Doing it wrong gets you more enemies and less friends.

This is yet another example of bureaucratic incompetence and intransigence. BTW, Blizzard refusing to refund players, whose money they have taken and who are now getting no service, is pathetic.

Anonymoussays:

The problem here is WoW “requires” a monthly subscription. Cut the economics, you lose the game. WoW’s free-to-play mode only goes up to level 20, which I understand to be not very far.

So, theoretically, the Starter Edition players should still be allowed to play. In practice, it’s probably just easier to cave in to the US Government pressure and block them.

But hey, there are always plenty of other MMORPGs. Some of them are Korean, and thus not affected by US politics.

PaulTsays:

Re: Re:

“So, theoretically, the Starter Edition players should still be allowed to play”

Theoretically, but what would be in it for Blizzard? They’d eat the costs of running those free accounts with no chance of upselling them to paid accounts and potentially risk federal attacks for allowing Iranians access to American players.

“But hey, there are always plenty of other MMORPGs.”

This is true. Just as Cuba has a roaring tourist industry despite Americans not being allowed there, so Iranians have other places to go.

Mega1987says:

Man…. hypocrites…. The US government is becoming an hypocrites to what their constitution stands for in the first place…

they should be punished for the denial of human rights…

of course… those guys got the money and power to deny it… jeez…

leave those people, who’s only means of connecting to their homeland is thru those social and gaming network alone…

Anonymoussays:

Re: Re:

In Libya, Egypt, and other Arab Spring countries, cutting off internet access further enraged the discontent populations against the dictator. But it was the dictator who was ordering the cut-off.

Guess who pulled the plug this time? The US, as a result of trade sanctions (which rarely work and usually punish the people we claim to be helping, having little effect on the repressive governemnts they are aimed at). Add to that the American company who is not issuing refunds. Who are they going to be pissed off at?

Anonymoussays:

Blizzard should have challenged this in court and gotten an exception to the trade rules. You are not helping Iran’s government get guns, materials for weapons/computers illegally, etc.

You are just allowing people to play a game, which has no negative effect on the United States and might have some positive effects in Iran for the United States.

Davidsays:

Re: Re:

Blizzard should have challenged this in court and gotten an exception to the trade rules.

Depending on what Blizzard considers probably more important for themselves in spite of what others think, spending for legal action without surefire guarantees of recouping their expenses isn’t likely at the top of their list.

Personally, I find it shameful that Blizzard won’t reimburse those Iran-based users who paid rather than hide behind legalities and what-not.

That One Guysays:

Ummm...

So they not only block them from playing probably their biggest, most popular game, they then tell the people that can no longer play that they aren’t getting a refund on their subscriptions…

Either they are of the opinion that the people that just got royally hosed are so crazy for their products that they’ll continue to buy future products from them, despite the backhanded move they were just handed, or blizzard really does not care for repeat customers from that country.

SujaOfJauhnralsays:

Re: Re: Ummm...

I don’t think Blizzard cares for ANY customers now a days, Diablo 3 and Battle Net 2.0 being the atrocious messes they are despite months of complaints and feedback. Don’t forget the derpchihuhua that is female Worgen and now female Pandas with their ONE. FACE. Despite two entire betas worth of people begging for options. They really don’t give a fuck.

art guerrillasays:

Re: Re: Re: Re: Cuba?

why not?
are only corrupt superpowers ‘allowed’ to enrich uranium and/or make atomic weapons ?
the question SHOULD be (in a sane world… i know, i know):
why is the only country who has (unnecessarily) used nukes to murder hundreds of thousands of human beans allowed to keep said weapons ? ? ?
(the answer: because we are the only country to murder hundreds of thousands with nukes…)
that’s some catch, that catch-22…
art guerrilla
aka ann archy
eof

Anonymoussays:

Re: Re: Re: Re: Cuba?

“Is Cuba enriching uranium capable of being used in nuclear weapons?”

You miss the point. Cutting off all connections with the “people” simply alienates them and encourages them to support their government. I knew many young Iranians/Persians when I lived in London in the seventies – they’re really no different from you or me… well maybe more open-minded and worldly than you.

Someguysays:

What is the purpose of a company

Blizzard has missed a brilliant public relations opportunity with this. Why not make the accounts free of charge for the duration of the sanctions and, if players agree to play free of charge, their character would be some how marked to show that they are under sanctions of some sort. This would encourage discussions with other characters and hopefully fulfil a greater social agenda. I have never played the game, so I may appear naive here – if it is feared that these free accounts would be too great a burdon on the servers, then place a daily/weekly/monthly restriction on the number of hours that characters can be out fighting or on campaigns. Running around in the common “safe” areas would not be limited as that is where players can chat without being interrupted.

Dreddsniksays:

” This would encourage discussions with other characters and hopefully fulfil a greater social agenda. “

And there it is. The REAL reason behind this. Understanding and communication ends profitable ‘conflicts’ The last thing anyone wants is to humanize an enemy. Any one that profits from conflict , that is.

Josef Anvilsays:

Huh???

Maybe I’m unclear on how sanctions actually work. I thought that sanctions were supposed to be punitive in nature to the nation they are imposed upon.

How is cutting off a source of revenue to the US, punishing Iran?

I’m trying to see the downside for Iran in this. More money that isn’t going into a down US economy?

Ninjasays:

Re: Re: Its because there is no security...

Stormwind guard: Miss, could you please step down from your dragon?
Hot draenei shaman: Why is that, dear sir?
Stormwind guard: I need to.. uh.. do a through body search on you for stolen intellectual property.
Hot draenei shaman: If you do that I’ll have to introduce you to a fiery death.
Stormwind guard: Ah, ok, you may pass then.

Anonymoussays:

and as stated, please note that Blizzard waited until Iranians had paid to be able to play the game before implementing the restrictions. sounds to me like the good old entertainment industries are still gonna keep going down the road of taking money without giving the service paid for. i wonder how long the people, anywhere, can carry on being screwed like this before kicking back?

anonsays:

Really America

I don’t know how they think attacking the citizens directly is going to affect politics, maybe the whole world should start boycotting America, refuse to ship anything to them refuse to buy anything from them and refuse to do any business with them, I mean there market has dropped significantly over the past few years, they are trying to impose their laws and even laws that are not allowed in there country on others. I say just cut them out until they can play fair, as for this guy, very simple, pirate as many games as you want, if they want to take your money and not supply what you have paid for , whatever the reason, just play for free, i am sure that there will be more people working on hacking there servers for free play on torrented games and i would not be surprised if it is working really soon. Sanctions are crazy in my opinion. i remember living in South Africa under sanctions, more tech was developed in S.A than there ever would have been without sanctions, they developed and marketed some very advanced weapons and the unemployment level was very very low, the country was it’s most prosperous during the sanctions, now if only they could have removed the crap laws that caused sanctions but kept the sanctions in place i suspect S.A would be growing very very fast and be in the top 10 world powers rather than falling back into third world territory.

Ezekial Smuckersays:

Re: Re: Really America

I wish the whole world WOULD stop trading with us, then maybe all the jobs would come back home and we wouldnt have so many unemployed people plus we wouldnt be enriching the pockets of countries in what I like to call the Matrix of Evil (Iran, China, North Korea, Somalia, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Congo, and Damascus)

iambinarymindsays:

Re: Re: Re: Re: Really America

Global trade creates jobs & wealth. It’s government “regulations/intervention” (force) that hampers economic prosperity.

For a further understanding of this I highly recommend you look into the economic idea of “comparitive advantage”. Here are a couple of short videos explaining the truth of the matter:

“Trade Is Made of Win,” Part 1: Wealth Creation
http://youtu.be/y0gGyeA-8C4

“Trade Is Made of Win,” Part 2: Cooperation
http://youtu.be/7yOHjRThM_o

“Trade Is Made of Win,” Part 3: Conservation
http://youtu.be/qdcQLWGaJoM

Anonymoussays:

Always more to the story

It really does seem like a dick move on Blizzards part, but I don’t think tightening of the embargo really had much to do with it.

Read this on Ars, http://arstechnica.com/gaming/2012/08/no-refunds-for-iranian-world-of-warcraft-users-blocked-by-us-embargo/

But I’d like to point out this other bit of information.

On August 14, a week or so before gamers began experiencing difficulties logging on, a conference was held in Iran for the launch of the Islamic Revolution Game Designers Community. At the event, a brochure from the Iranian government’s Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance cited World of Warcraft as an “example of the means [by] which western propaganda is used to poison the mind of [the] youth population in Iran.” Alongside an image of the game was a list of reasons, translated by a Tehran journalist for The Verge, including, “promotion of superstition and mythology,” “promotion of violence due to too much violence,” and “demonstration of inappropriate clothing and slutty outfits for female avatars.”

So while there definitely is some issues that are strange, and probably undemocratic, at the same time it seems like Blizzard got the first move in, so to speak, and “remembered” about the embargo to avoid the situation with this other group.

Betasays:

Re: Re: Always more to the story

‘…the Iranian government’s Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance cited World of Warcraft… [for e.g.] “promotion of superstition and mythology,”…’

Christopher Hitchens would have laughed himself sick at that one.

‘…”promotion of violence due to too much violence,”…’

Just try a Google search for “Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance stoning”. Go ahead, try it.

‘…and “demonstration of inappropriate clothing and slutty outfits for female avatars.”‘

Well, yeah, okay.

Anonymoussays:

Re: Re: Re: Re: Always more to the story

I am not excusing their actions, and I agree with you.

I am however pointing out that it was a convenient excuse to pull down the gates and get out of dodge while the getting seemed to be good. Hence why they accepted new accounts even though they knew they were going to be terminating them.

Hence why they allowed pre-orders with no refund policies to continue but with the promise ‘once the government lifts the ban, you’ll get your accounts back’ – IE don’t blame them, they are just as much the victim as you all are! Just wait patiently for a policy that has been around for nearly, oh between 10 and 60 years to be cleared up and go away, then come play with us again. Check back in another decade.

nospacesorspecialcharacterssays:

Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Always more to the story

Please… they were distributing a flyer!

“At the event, a brochure from the Iranian government’s Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance cited World of Warcraft as…”

I can’t think of a straight US example but it’s like the Department for Culture Media and Sport in the UK denouncing the GTA series as encouraging car theft. It means they disapprove of it but if the government was going to ban access, they wouldn’t have gone to a game conference to hand out flyers.

There’s only one theocracy in this specific case abusing their power and waving the ban hammer and for once it’s not Iran.

Anonymoussays:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re: Re: Re: Re: Always more to the story

I agree with you on this.

And I feel it was a misdirect. But to clarify my own post, I should have included a portion of the quoted text that appeared immediately prior to the previous block quote above.

Tellingly, the post also made mention of suspicions that Iran was planning on blocking access to the Battle.net games portal anyway, saying, “Blizzard Entertainment cannot speak to any reports surrounding the Iranian government restricting games from its citizens.”

Sorry to have erred and not place it there to begin with.

Aaron Williamsonsays:

Relationship to State Department policies

[D]oes this result from our sanctions jive with how our State Department seems to want to encourage governments around the world to allow open communication through the internet and social media?

No, not really, but that’s mostly because the Iran (and Cuba, etc.) sanctions are imposed not by the State Department, but by the Treasury Department, through the Office of Foreign Asset Controls. Both are executive agencies and at least nominally report to the president, but the policy priorities of executive agencies do not always align or make sense as a whole.

Lancesays:

The problem

Perhaps more importantly, as both parties like to make a lot of noise about “internet freedom” and its application to broadening freedom and Democracy in nations that enjoy little of both, does this result from our sanctions jive with how our State Department seems to want to encourage governments around the world to allow open communication through the internet and social media?

Are you saying that the killing of stinking orcs is a social media experience?

iambinarymindsays:

Disturbing Statement...

“While I understand the occasional need to punish a bad government through trade sanctions…”

Please elaborate on how you “understand the occasional need” for the people calling themselves the U.S. government “to punish [initiate force] a bad government through trade sanctions [an act of war]”.

Your statement is quite disturbing and I can only hope you may at some point understand that the initiation of force is immoral, no matter what label is placed on the individual initiating said force.

Anonymoussays:

Oh sanctions on online gaming are older than this. The UK has had one on Lebanon for years, but I’m not quite sure what they’re trying to achieve here. Maybe being constantly called a noob drives Lebanese people to terrorism I don’t know.

Maybe they are keeping these sanctions and removing them because Iranian scientists will be discouraged from their bomb building endeavors by their comparative noobishness to their WOW friends, because you know, f**k logic.

hamidsays:

Hello

Hello Guys im civil Engineer and com from iran.
you must know all Nuclear Activity from iran is according with nuclear organization and under thire supervidion. Iran is big and active memeber from non proliferation treaty grp but israel is not. all iranian nuclear scientists were assassinated. why ? because your mind just follow us. and israel i think you cann= remmber 1945 us use bomb in japen !?
why israel is not NPT memer ?
LOL TAKE IT EASY.
GUYS YOUR MINCONTROLL
remmber iraq war ?! this was for nothing. where is j w bush and beler
lol
cya around gj blizz

hamidsays:

alarm

Hello guys im ppl from iran.
you must all know nuclear activity from iran is according with nuclear organization and under thire supervidion. iran is active member from non porliferation treaty grp but isreal with 18.000 nuclear bomb is not why ?! almost all iranian nuclear scintists were assissinated. why ?! because isreal dont want. im sure you guys can remmber 1945 usa use nuclear bomb aginst japen why !?
human right is staff for wast to use power against developing country.
dont listen to usa news ! just open your mind.
i have shave to say you guys is mindcontroll from your goverment.

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