Internet outages, full servers, even bans for bad behavior — there are plenty of reasons why players might be denied access to their favorite online game. However, for Crimean fans of World of Warcraft and Diablo, the reasons behind their denial of service are much more far-reaching than most.
This week, the Crimean player base of those two titles were locked out from the game as a result of sanctions established by the United States last year. Companies registered in the US are prohibited from investing money in the country, or providing their services to companies and individuals based in the region.
For players, that means that the time and money that they have invested into their in-game characters has gone to waste — at least until the sanctions are lifted. As anyone who’s played these games will know, that could amount to a hefty sum comprised of subscription fees or in-game microtransactions, as well as the countless hours that go into levelling up a character.
However, instead of their normal login, users attempting to access the titles from within Crimea are being faced with the following message:
“In accordance with current trade regulations relating to the region of Crimea, we are legally required to suspend access to your Battle.net account.”
Blizzard follows in the footsteps of major companies like Apple and Google who have also been forced to comply with these restrictions. It remains to be seen whether other video game companies might be forced to halt certain operations — subscription-based services like PlayStation Plus and Xbox Live might well fall under the same constraints as Blizzard’s online games.
Given that we’ve just seen players revolt when 2K announced plans to close servers for NBA 2K14, it’s interesting to see a developer forced to make a similar decision for very different reasons. It’s not often that fantasy video games and global politics collide, but in this case it’s prompted a less than desirable situation for Crimean fans of the titles in question.
Of course, there are far greater issues than access to Blizzard’s online games at play in Crimea. However, there’s something to be observed here about how simple it is for companies to deny access to a digital product. In this case, it’s at the behest of the government; next time it be for more self-serving purposes.
World of Warcraft is available now as a PC download in most regions.