Blizzard Entertainment, creator of World of Warcraft (“WoW”), banned over 100,000 accounts for violations of the game’s Terms of Use. These accounts were engaged in “botting,” which is the practice of using third party programs to automate gameplay. Although botting had always been present in WoW, and similar such games, it had become a substantial issue of late. Bots were reportedly being used for repetitive, mundane tasks and also to farm player vs. player “honor points” in order to purchase better equipment. The botting problem was so prevalent in farming “honor points” that player vs. player arenas were reportedly filled with these bots, making the game very frustrating for actual players attempting to gain “honor points” legitimately. Fortunately, Blizzard has confronted botting before, and has established protective measures in its Terms of Use agreement.

WoW’s Terms of Use specifically states “You agree that you will not, under any circumstances: (A) use cheats, automation software (bots), hacks, mods or any other unauthorized third-party software designed to modify the World of Warcraft experience.” Additionally, Blizzard expressly reserved the right to ban accounts for any reason. However, the Terms of Use states that “most account suspensions, terminations and/or deletions are the result of violations of the Terms of Use.” Such clear language in the Terms of Use easily grants Blizzard the authority to take action as necessary when players are found to be botting. Although it is safe to assume that most gamers do not read the Terms of Use for the games they play, it is well known within the WoW community, and gaming community at large, that the use of bots could result in an account ban.

Blizzard has long opposed botting, and has even taken legal action against companies that make botting software used in its games. In 2006, MDY Industries LLC, the creator of a WoW botting software, sought a declaratory judgment against Blizzard that it did not infringe on Blizzard’s copyrights (2008 U.S. Dist. Lexis 53988). However, Blizzard asserted counterclaims under the Digital Millenium Copyright Act and tortious interference with contract. Although Blizzard’s counterclaims were successful at the district court level, the Ninth Circuit reversed. Ultimately, after five years of litigation, the case was settled in favor of Blizzard.

Blizzard recently attempted to sue the creator of Honorbuddy, a popular third party botting software, in Germany. However, Blizzard was unsuccessful in this case, and withdrew its application for an injunction earlier this month. Honorbuddy had prided itself on being undetectable by Blizzard. However, it is thought that the very recent failure in Court against Honorbuddy was the motivation behind finding a method of detecting the botting software, and the subsequent, massive ban of many Honorbuddy users. With the ban of a substantial number of its users and narrowly escaping litigation, the creator of Honorbuddy has effectively shut down the application for the time being.

Apparently, Blizzard’s mighty ban hammer may be enough to stem the tide of botting villainy. Although 100,000 accounts is a substantial number to ban by any means, WoW maintains a subscriber base of 7.1 million people. Banned accounts will be able to access the WoW servers in six months, so the countless hours that players have put in to creating their characters will not all be for naught. Hopefully these players have learned that violations of WoW’s Terms of Use will result in punishment, and not seek to gain a competitive advantage through any illicit means.

Roger Quiles is an attorney from New York City with a practice focusing in business, entertainment, and eSports law. A die-hard gamer since Super Mario Bros., Roger now represents professional gamers, tournament producers, and the businesses that serve them. Up, up, down, down, left, right, left right, B, A, Start.