What happened to ‘World of Warcraft’ for Iranian players?

what happened to world of warcraft for iranian players wow1It’s the downside of trade sanctions between nations that most people never think about: What happens to Internet commerce when certain nations decide to block other nations from sharing business transactions? In the case of American sanctions against Iran, the answer is apparently “Hope that you weren’t a World of Warcraft subscriber.”

Blizzard has been forced to sever ties with Iranian WoW subscribers due to the US imposing economic and trade sanctions against the country, it explained earlier this week in a statement: “United States trade restrictions and economic sanction laws prohibit Blizzard from doing business with residents of certain nations, including Iran,” read a post from a Blizzard representative in the game’s forums. “Several of you have seen and cited the text in the Terms of Use which relates to these government-imposed sanctions. Blizzard tightened up its procedures to ensure compliance with these laws, and players connecting from the affected nations are restricted from access to Blizzard games and services.”

The post came in response to several Iranian players discovering that they were suddenly unable to log in to their accounts on the game, and posting confused complaints on the Blizzard forum. The trouble began last week, but according to Ars Technica, it can be traced back even further; a post on that site points to a brochure released at the Islamic Revolution Game Designers Community launch by the Iranian Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance that described the game as “an example of the means [by] which western propaganda is used to poison the mind of [the] youth population in Iran.” The form of this poison, it was explained, included the “promotion of superstition and mythology… promotion of violence due to too much violence [and] demonstration of inappropriate clothing and slitty outfits for female avatars” (Something tells me that the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance would find common ground with many American censors, considering that list of objections).

Oddly enough, the terms of service for World of Warcraft have stated that the software “may not be downloaded or otherwise exported or re-exported into (or to a national or resident of) Cuba, Iraq, Libya, North Korea, Iran, Syria, or any other country to which the US has embargoed goods” for some time (Emphasis mine); that Iranian players had been able to play the game until last week suggests that either Blizzard was not very on top of its exclusionary policy, or else the sudden, announced-after-the-fact removal of all Iranian players had less to do with official sanctions, and everything to do with a response to the Ministry of Culture’s denunciation of the game as a whole. Which, if true, is somewhat petty… but also somewhat funny. Unless you happen to live in Iran, of course.