- Author: milliondollarpuppy
- Date: May 25, 2023
- Expansion: WotLK Classic
Blizzard has released a statement about the sudden and surprising addition of the WoW Token to Wrath of the Lich King Classic to address concern and alarm from the community.
In Retail, the WoW Token can be bought for large sums of money at the auction house; it is an item that players can purchase from Blizzard for real currency and sell to players for a substantial payday. With the rampant abuse of botting and 3rd party organizations using actual money storefronts to sell in-game services and rewards, this was the logical solution for Blizzard to help mitigate that threat.
In Classic WoW, gold is a much more limiting resource than it is in later expansions, and players need to invest serious time gathering the gold they need for mounts, training, and the potions/flasks/consumables that go into regularly clearing content; ultimately this limiting factor is an appeal for many Classic WoW fans that don’t like the accessibility of Retail.
Many players feel conflicted about this addition, as it was not a part of the original Wrath of the Lich King experience and is ultimately an admission of Blizzard’s inability to enforce policy to stop botting.
Blizzard’s focus in the statement is centered mainly around the Token being able to combat exploitive activity.
We want to take a moment to talk about WoW Token in Wrath of the Lich King Classic.
The best way to start is to simply say that this wasn’t something we arrived at lightly. For the entirety of Classic so far, the WoW Classic team has been very resistant to the idea of adding WoW Token to any form of Classic in the Western regions (NA and EU). When WoW Classic started in 2019, adding something like token felt unimaginable to us, and that continued to be true for us–even late into Burning Crusade Classic–for a few reasons:
- In Vanilla WoW, the scarcity of gold is a major factor in how you approach your journey in Azeroth. From saving to get your first mount at 40, to picking and choosing which skills you wanted to learn while leveling so you could afford a new weapon or piece of armor. Later on at level 60, some form of time investment is needed to “maintain” a character in an ecosystem where flasks, resistance potions, and elixirs are such a major part of the game, and resources are scarce and highly contested. This was true all the way through Burning Crusade, where potions and flasks could represent a significant weekly expense and the resources required to make them were still quite difficult to obtain.
- It just didn’t feel “Classic”. It felt jarring, out of place, and was antithetical to what most of us wanted to relive about those early years of WoW.
However, what we want to do from a design perspective and what we need to do for the good of the community aren’t always aligned, and this is one of the more difficult things about maintaining a large online game like Wrath Classic. When we really looked at the state of things in Wrath Classic, and how different players approach the game, we saw that we cannot cause the demand for gold to be lower. The impact of illicit RMT is beyond just buying gold; it’s the entire black market that revolves around gold sales. The concept of bots gets thrown around a lot, but it’s not just “bots” that fuel this, it’s compromised accounts, credit card fraud, scams, hacked clients, and the tools that illicit third parties use to fuel the engine that is the RMT trade.
We hear folks say things like “just ban the bots” a lot. We ban tens of thousands of bots a week. It’s not visible to you just how much we do, and that is absolutely another problem in itself; we need to be better at surfacing these actions (more on this later). The truth is we’ve never been better and more effective at identifying and actioning malicious accounts, and our Game Security Operations (GSO) team that handle these actions are iterating and innovating on a nearly daily basis.
Unfortunately, in the history of WoW, the people perpetrating this illicit trade have also never been better at coming up with new methods, schemes, farms, and exploits to work around our efforts. As much engineering and analytics effort as we put into this, illicit RMT “workshops” put the same amount in, or more, and there are hundreds, if not thousands of these workshops out there all working around the clock to develop new technologies and techniques to counter our new technologies and techniques. It’s an arms race, and it never, ever ends.
We will never completely beat “bots” or illicit RMT. It’s an unwinnable war as long as there is money to be made by third parties. The ubiquitous nature of this type of thing in online games is an objective fact. It has always been a part of WoW, and every other popular online game for the past 25 years, and it will always be a part of online games going forward. It’s frustrating to fight this fight, but we will not stop fighting it.
While we can’t completely “win” the war, what we can do is mitigate the impact it has on the game. Is WoW Token the be-all and end-all to solve this? No, but it is a tool. It’s just one tool, though, among many. There is clearly a demand for gold for certain types of players, and that demand is only increasing. So, we are engaging a tool that we’ve used before to help mitigate the impact that illicit RMT has on the game. The more tools we employ, and the less lucrative we can make it for third parties to do what they do to make a profit, the less likely it is that new malicious actors enter the illicit RMT scene, and the more likely that existing malicious actors will exit the business. Ultimately, it’s taking incremental steps and using a multitude of tools that will reduce how impactful those third parties will be in Wrath Classic and beyond.
Wrath Design and the “Value” of Gold
Circling back to what was mentioned earlier about why WoW Token feels like a tool we should deploy now, we have to look at the base design of Wrath of the Lich King. Ultimately, this is what convinced us to reconsider WoW Token after resisting and refusing this path for so long. In Wrath Classic, your normal weekly activities are, for the most part, self-sustaining. Buying potions, flasks, reagents, and other normal necessities of endgame can be subsidized entirely by mostly just playing the game normally. Doing your usual weekly raid, a few dungeons, or a few dailies a week will net even the most fervent and well-prepared characters more gold than they would need to maintain themselves. Simply put, gold is more plentiful, and the base design of Wrath minimized the focus on needing to “farm” to support normal play.
When we considered that, we realized that the introduction of token wouldn’t be a temptation for most regular players to buy to help support their usual everyday gameplay. It’s simply not impactful to the average player who logs in, raids a few days a week with their guild, does a few dungeons and dailies, and then plays other games in between those activities. There’s no friction in that player’s experience that would tempt them to buy a token just to keep themselves afloat.
Better Visibility into Exploitative Account Actions
As mentioned earlier, we need to improve the visibility around what we do. We posted some weeks ago that we banned over 120,000 malicious accounts in World of Warcraft alone in a large wave, but those large waves that we talk about are actually a very small portion of the overall actions we take on a week over week basis. Using just the past two weeks as an example, here are the actions our GSO team have taken:
- Total Exploitative Battle.net Account Closures: 248,105
- Total Exploitative World of Warcraft Account Closures: 73,057
This is just the last two weeks, and this is what our efforts look like very regularly, week-in and week-out. It’s an enormous effort and it’s many, many individuals’ full-time jobs to do this. This is an issue of sheer, staggering scale. We have the tools, and those tools are effective, but the malicious actors come right back with new and different methods every time. All that being said, we need to post these things more, and that’s something that our team wants to be able to surface more often.
Thanks you for reading, and thank you for your feedback.
– The WoW Classic Team