Blizzard warns Hearthstone players over fake Fireside Gatherings

Nemsy Necrofizzle, as Tim explained earlier this month, is a new Warlock-class Hearthstone skin that Blizzard is offering exclusively to participants of Fireside Gatherings, the fan meet-up events that bring players together for some face-to-face card-throwing. It's a really fun idea, and of course it's gone terribly wrong. Disgruntled players have taken to Reddit to complain about fake events that leave them without the skin, sometimes after traveling long distances, and at least one guy claims he ended up in actual physical danger.   

The problem, as you can see here, is that "creating your very own Fireside Gathering is as easy as filling in a handful of form fields and clicking a couple of buttons." The only restriction is that you must have won at least three games in Hearthstone in Casual, Ranked, or Arena, not exactly a Herculean task for someone who wants to stir up trouble. Non-established taverns (that is, taverns without a custom portrait) cannot offer the skin, but that's not a point that's made clearly on the Fireside Gathering page—it was actually a redditor who clarified it last week it with this image

In response to the complaints, Blizzard has issued a statement acknowledging the problem, but also suggesting that there's not a whole lot it can do to fix it. 

"With the surge of interest in Fireside Gatherings and Taverns, we’ve seen a rise in events created with inappropriate, false, or misleading information. We want the Fireside Gathering online submissions process to be easy and accessible for our Innkeepers, but unfortunately, that degree of accessibility has also enabled an increase of illegitimate events," community manager Keganbe wrote. 

"As a result, we’ll be dedicating additional resources towards vetting and reviewing Fireside Gatherings and Taverns. We also encourage you to report any suspicious Fireside Gatherings using the Report it link at the bottom of every event page on the list of Fireside Gatherings." 

People who want to host an event should provide as much information about it as possible and ensure that their venue of choice is actually available and capable of accommodating it, Blizzard said. Anyone interested in attending a Fireside Gathering "should carefully review the events near them to ensure the legitimacy," and should also make sure that they're being hosted in a public place, and not just in some guy's basement. 

"Players who abuse the Fireside Gathering system may face account penalties, ranging from the suspension of their ability to create, participate in, or gain rewards from Fireside Gatherings, to action against their Hearthstone game account. Examples of Fireside Gathering system abuse can include creating events with inappropriate names or holding events at inaccessible locations," Keganbe continued. "We will also be issuing account actions against users found to be maliciously impacting services at Fireside Gatherings or Taverns with the intent of ruining the experience for other players." 

I'm inclined to think (or at least hope) that the number of fraudulent Fireside Gatherings is actually fairly small, but at the same time it's impossible to overlook the Boaty McBoatface factor. And looking at the list of Gatherings near my own location, it's hard not to at least a few are fakes: "skin i guess," "TEST GAME," and "erb" all sound a little dodgy. (I do hope that "Gnomes 2: Electric Boogaloo" is legit, though.)

Either way, quite a few commenters on Battle.net are unhappy that Blizzard isn't offering some form of compensation for their trouble (or just making Nemsy Necrofizzle available to everyone), and—as ever—the Hearthstone subreddit clearly isn't happy with the response either. But for now Blizzard remains committed to a relatively hands-off approach—and vague threats of "account penalties" notwithstanding, it's clearly up to individual players to avoid finding themselves standing in the badlands with only a budget zoo deck to protect themselves.