WoW Classic players furious at addition of controversial item, Blizzard says it's a necessary evil in the 'unwinnable war' against bots, scammers, and RMT workshops

The WoW Token, an item that can be bought with real money and sold for gold.
(Image credit: Blizzard)

Blizzard has announced it's adding the World of Warcraft Token to WoW Classic, an item that can be bought with real money and used for either 30 days of game time or sold in the auction house for gold. This is an item that has always been somewhat controversial among WoW players and, when we're talking Classic, it is exactly the kind of thing some players hoped never to see. Essentially the WoW Token allows players to swap real money for gold, without going through some shady third party dealer, and some folk think this just shouldn't be in the game. 

It gets especially acute because players have different ideas of what 'Classic' should mean. Over on the r/ClassicWoW subreddit the conflagration was absolutely spectacular, with longtime moderator ZeldenGM absolutely going off on Blizzard and overturning rule 4, which prohibits discussions about private servers and cheats. 

"We’ve upheld a rule against discussion of private servers and cheats on the basis of a good faith that Blizzard would be running Classic to a certain standard," wrote ZeldenGM in a now-deleted post. "The standard has been pretty fucking low for a very long time but it’s clear today that the mask of integrity has totally fallen from the face of greed. As such feel free to discuss other options to play all versions of Classic in a way that has a higher integrity than what Blizzard has to offer."

Subsequently, ZeldenGM has stepped down from moderating r/ClassicWoW and rule 4 has been re-established. They did return briefly to comment in a stickied thread titled 'Clearing the air' announcing all of this, saying:

"There’s a long list of grievances, some that are unknown to the wider community, but the bottom line is the spirit of Classic is totally dead for me, and why should anyone put any time into this when Blizzard don’t," said ZeldenGM. "A bit ironic that Blizzard have finally released a response today, however it’s the 'not my fault' crap that I expected. I could write a lengthy rant about why it’s a nonsense response but it’s all screaming into the void regardless: they don’t care about anyone."

We'll get to that response in a moment but, essentially, a lot of WoW Classic players are on ZeldenGM's side, and regard them as having articulated a widespread frustration among Classic players at how Blizzard is handling the game. I'm not going to just reproduce a hundred other comments calling Blizzard trash, but suffice to say one of the game's main community hubs is now overtaken with memes poking fun at Blizzard, posts about gold sellers, and a bit of meta humour. Look: It's carnage, and it's all about this Token.

Reaction was such that Blizzard has been compelled to respond, which it did in a lengthy post that both admits the WoW Token was always a vexatious idea in relation to WoW Classic, and attempts to explain why the studio's adding it anyway.

"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)," reads the blogpost, which is credited to The WoW Classic Team. It goes on to explain that gold scarcity is a part of the Vanilla WoW experience, and the team wanted to keep it this way, but in the Wrath era "we saw that we cannot cause the demand for gold to be lower".

Blizzard says the problem is "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."

Blizzard later provides these frankly astonishing statistics which, it says, relate to the last two weeks:

  • Total Exploitative Account Closures: 248,105
  • Total Exploitative World of Warcraft Account Closures: 73,057

The studio says that battling against bad actors and RMT workshops is "an arms race, and it never, ever ends." It says it will never completely beat bots and this is "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."

Thus, the WoW Token. Blizzard says this is "one tool among many" in mitigating the impact of bad practices and illicit RMT on Wrath Classic. It says it believes most players will never need to buy extra gold in order to play normally, and thus the Token shouldn't impact on regular players: "There’s no friction in that player’s experience that would tempt them to buy a token just to keep themselves afloat."

Blizzard ends by describing the fight against bots, scams and illicit RMT as "an issue of sheer, staggering scale" and that, even with tools like the WoW Token, "the malicious actors come right back with new and different methods every time."

While this may all seem rather reasonable on Blizzard's part, and it has responded quickly and comprehensively to the criticism, this has gone down with many like a cup of cold sick. One of the main accusations is that Blizzard's real reason for adding the WoW Token to Classic is making money, others insist the game is rife with bots whatever Blizzard says, others just fling names at the studio, and plenty say this is the final straw for WoW Classic.

"I mean... They DO make the game. And maintain it. And deal with all this community's relentlessly, outrageously unforgiving bullshit," points out TheSiegmeyerCatalyst. "WoW players are gonna buy gold. It's a problem as impossible to stop as gold selling bots. So if someone is gonna make money on it, it makes sense to me that it's the people that actually made the game."

Rich Stanton

Rich is a games journalist with 15 years' experience, beginning his career on Edge magazine before working for a wide range of outlets, including Ars Technica, Eurogamer, GamesRadar+, Gamespot, the Guardian, IGN, the New Statesman, Polygon, and Vice. He was the editor of Kotaku UK, the UK arm of Kotaku, for three years before joining PC Gamer. He is the author of a Brief History of Video Games, a full history of the medium, which the Midwest Book Review described as "[a] must-read for serious minded game historians and curious video game connoisseurs alike."