Dear Blizzard, Shutting Down Nostalrius Is A Mistake

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Dear Blizzard,

We need to have a pow-wow. What have you done? Shutting down Nostalrius accomplishes nothing more than inspire the contempt of Vanilla World of Warcraft fans. You can flex your billionaire legal muscles and claim what is rightfully yours as far as the law is concerned, but to what end? What purpose does sending one of the most popular fan-run Vanilla World of Warcraft servers into the void? Absolutely nothing. All you’ve done is give your lawyers a reason to slap a stamp on an envelope, while dismissing the appeal of Vanilla WoW, an allure that runs deeper than nostalgia.

With each expansion game’s change, they evolve into new experiences. And after six or so releases, over 12 years, the latest edition of an MMORPG is wearing a new outfit. It’s in its annoying teenage years, when it thinks it understands the world and knows better than everyone else. But players aren’t going to tolerate that nonsense, especially when they realize what they loved is no longer the same game. So they cancel their grandma’s credit card, uninstall 35GB of a world that isn’t home anymore, and search for something else to fill the emptiness—until they discover a private server. A private server run by players just like them, players who want to rekindle their love for a game (FUBU).

At Blizzcon 2013 the notion that there’s any demand for a Vanilla server was dismissed with your now iconic quote, “No. And… and by the way you don’t want that… to do that either. You think you do, but you don’t.” You think you want a Vanilla WoW server but you don’t.

Your hubris allowed Nostalrius to boast over one million registered accounts, peaking at 15,000 concurrent players and a frequent average of 8,000 players. These are not numbers to be scoffed at like pennies on a sidewalk. Most titles on Steam struggle to hit 1,000 players let alone 8,000. Of course, compared to World of Warcraft's last reported 5.5 million subscribers—before Activision Blizzard announced they would no longer reveal subscriber counts—the number of Nostalrius players is paltry. But if Nostalrius were added to Steam it would have sat as the thirty-sixth most popular game, between Total War: ROME II and 7 Days to Die. And Nostalrius is just one server. Demand exists.

I’m not imploring you to host your own Vanilla World of Warcraft server, running an old game built on old code using old servers. Do your thing Blizzard, build your gaming empire and let your stock be relevant for the next century. But why not give Nostalrius your blessing?

Daybreak Games LLC acknowledges Project 1999 as the official classic EverQuest server. “We have recently entered into a written agreement with Daybreak Game Company LLC that formally recognizes Project 1999 as a fan based, not-for-profit, classic EverQuest emulation project.” Why won’t you acknowledge Nostalrius as “as a fan based, not-for-profit, classic [World of Warcraft] emulation project?” Why would you deny players who missed a chance to experience the game you created, the standard by which almost every MMORPG is judged by at least one person in a forum?

Shutting down Nostalrius won’t push any of its players to the official servers. By virtue of playing Vanilla WoW they declare their disinterest, and their desire for older days when the game emphasized different elements. Other servers will sprout in its place anyway; someone will always be willing to launch a server, regardless of the game. I swear every other day a new Ultima Online server magically appears.

A free Blizzard sanctioned vanilla server wouldn’t entice current players to drop their subscription. Place both games side-by-side and you have two entirely different titles, if it wasn’t for the aesthetic assets. And I’m suspicious of the notion that there are many players subscribed to World of Warcraft who wish for the glory days of Vanilla, but can’t curb their addiction or have some moral sentiment, so they endure the current version of WoW. It seems all the more likely that the number of players on both servers would stay largely the same, barring an unlikely disastrous Legion release.

Blizzard I don’t think you understand what made your game special. I think you look at critics comparing new titles to World of Warcraft, your child, and believe yourselves to be infallible innovators capable of shaping an industry title after title. You’re wrong. You are not the same company that created Vanilla WoW, and attacking Nostalrius proves you don’t understand the value of your product, or you’ve decided to be a mechanized corporation, flexing legal rights whenever possible, crushing fan-made projects to preserve some ill-founded perception that your IP is under attack by scoundrels.

Vanilla WoW is an entirely different game, its own beast that has not been replicated since. Why you will not sanction the community to host the game they want to play I cannot fathom.

Blizzard, you will keep printing money regardless, and next year when you shut down the next Nostalrius I’ll repost this article again and you can brush over it, shutting down another Vanilla to the petition of fans saying, "please, stop."

From Mega Man II to Ape Escape, I've been playing games for as long as I can remember. I've spent months killing porings in Ragnarok Online and more recently lived a second life in Eve Online. I usually play as gUMBY, gUMBLEoni, or gUMBLes in-game.