Blizzard banned 74,000 accounts for botting in WoW Classic… but is it enough?
Blizzard has been waging war with bots and gold farmers since the original days of World of Warcraft, so it’s not exactly a surprise that they’ve found themselves engaged in that same war in WoW Classic, especially since gold is not as easily acquired there as it is in the modern game. So it’s not necessarily a surprise that they’ve recently banned over 74,000 accounts as part of their overall effort to reduce cheating in the game, along with a 30 unique instances a day cap to go alongside the 5 instances an hour cap already in place. The question becomes, will this finally be the end of it? Has Blizzard finally triumphed over people using bot programs to farm instances, kill mobs and claim all the nodes in an area faster than an unassisted player could?
The answer is no. No, it won’t be. Because WoW Classic very deliberately hearkens back to when World of Warcraft didn’t have things like the WoW Token, there will always be a real world market for people who are willing to spend said real life money for gold and resources, and as long as that market exists in WoW Classic, there will be people willing to break the terms of service and cheat to get the gold and resources others want to buy. Since WoW Classic is literally an MMO from 2006 without any of the improvements made since to combat this, it will continue to feel the effects of cheaters and botters. There’s simply no way around it.
There are multiple issues with this. The first is, simply put, no matter how many accounts Blizzard bans (and they just banned 74,000, so you know they’re not shy) there are more waiting to step in and take up the task, because there’s money in it. Blizzard created the WoW Token in part to remove that market — they literally undercut the botters at their own game by letting players pay real money directly to them in a secure transaction in exchange for gold via selling the token in game, while others who had a surfeit of gold in game could exchange it directly for game time. While you can still benefit from the WoW Token to a degree as a WoW Classic player by buying said token in retail WoW using the gold you have there, you can’t sell the token inside WoW Classic, and therefore you can’t spend real world money to get in game gold in WoW Classic. Therefore, the market remains for botters to turn a profit.
Real money, more problems
Another issue with banning botters is, there’s an eternal arms race between Blizzard’s monitoring programs and heuristics and the programs the botters use to automate their gameplay to keep from being detected. Blizzard can often determine a bot program or programs are being used, but not always, and that means when a player is reported for suspected botting Blizzard has to try and gather evidence to prove the player isn’t just really freaking good at the game. That takes time, and worse, even when Blizzard does prove it to their own satisfaction (it’s their game, after all, they can technically kick anyone out at any time) and bans the player, they’re often back with a new account within the day. In order to protect legitimate players, Blizzard chooses not to ban people on suspicion alone. That’s admirable, but it does mean that botters are often harder to get rid of.
So what’s the solution? Honestly, I’d suggest bringing the WoW Token into WoW Classic directly. While it didn’t destroy real money traders cheating in retail WoW, it did hurt them and reduce their profit margins significantly. As much as WoW Classic players tend to want as pristine an experience as possible, the fact is, World of Warcraft has gotten a lot better at dealing with these problems over the years and it wasn’t by issuing ban waves, it was by making the issue less profitable for the people cheating.
Until they do something to make real money trading less profitable, WoW Classic is going to see waves upon waves of bots, and banning them is just bailing out the boat. Patching the leak is reducing the incentive to cheat in the first place.
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