Battle.net blocked in Iran, 'World of Warcraft' and 'Diablo 3' inaccessible for some (update)

Battle.net, the online service for Blizzard games including Diablo, StarCraft, and World of Warcraft, is currently blocked in Iran, according to reports on forums from users who can't connect to it.

Battle.net, the online service for Blizzard games including Diablo 3, StarCraft 2, and World of Warcraft, is currently blocked in Iran for some World of Warcraft users, according to reports from players who can't connect to it.

Over 20 World of Warcraft players complained about the problem in a thread in the tech support section of the European Battle.net forums. A number of users there also posted Iranian IP addresses and timed-out ping tests; the connection issues seem to have begun after yesterday's weekly server maintenance. Users in Iran are reportedly unable to load up the Battle.net site without using a proxy server; however, a couple of them have noted that they can play Diablo 3 but not World of Warcraft.

A user on the MMO-Champion forums mentioned his inability to access World of Warcraft, and posted a photo of a government pamphlet detailing offensive content in the game (seen above). We contacted the user, who identified himself as Siavash A., a freelance journalist residing in Tehran. Here's his rough translation of the Persian text:

  1. Promotion of superstition and mythology
  2. Promotion of violence due to too much violence (I'm not exaggerating this is exactly what they wrote).
  3. Abolishing the deformation in sin.
  4. Demonstration of inappropriate clothing and slutty outfits for female avatars.

Siavash explained that the list is part of a catalog provided to media during a conference held on Thursday, August 14th, for the founding of the Islamic Revolution Game Designers Community. The brochure came from a branch of the Iranian government's Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance.

The document was intended to provide "examples of the means [in] which western propaganda is used to poison the mind of [the] youth population in Iran," said Siavash, who attended the conference as a member of the press.

Problematic games listed in the pamphlet include Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, Assassin's Creed, Second Life, and Guild Wars. Babak Karbasi, provisional secretary-general of the Islamic Revolution Game Designers Community, spoke at the event. He urged Iranian game designers to make games that would fight the alleged "propaganda" from the West. Siavash explained that while the Islamic Revolution Game Designers Community is not an official agency of the Iranian government, it is being funded by the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance and "operates under their supervision."

The video games are "examples of the means [in] which western propaganda is used to poison the mind of [the] youth population in Iran"

It's currently unclear if the Iranian government has permanently blocked access to World of Warcraft; Siavash said he and his friends cannot reach Battle.net to play World of Warcraft or Diablo 3 without using a virtual private network or other workarounds.

According to Siavash, Iran has no inherent market for foreign video games; instead, most available Western games are pirated copies imported from places such as Dubai. Games weren't officially under the purview of the Iranian government until recently, so they're in a legal gray area. Media such as books and films must be approved by the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance for distribution in Iran, but while Western video games aren't explicitly illegal, they're not exactly sanctioned, either. Only recently did the Iranian government make waves when it banned Electronic Arts' Battlefield 3 because part of it takes place in Iran; for its part, EA pointed out that it had no plans to officially distribute the game there.

As for Blizzard, the country selector on the page for creating Battle.net accounts does not list Iran, and it is unclear if it ever did. The World of Warcraft terms of use on the company's European website specifically mention Iran among a list of countries in which Blizzard does not authorize playing the game.

The software ... and/or the Service 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 U.S. has embargoed goods.

Similar language exists in the Battle.net terms of use, the Diablo 3 end-user license agreement, and the StarCraft 2 end-user license agreement. We reached out to Blizzard for comment this morning, but had received no response as of press time.

Update: A Blizzard spokesman responded to say that the company is "looking into this." We'll let you know as soon as we receive more details.

Update 2: On Friday, August 24th, Blizzard Entertainment offered the following statement to Polygon about Battle.net's restricted access in Iran.

We can't speak to reports surrounding the Iranian government restricting games from its citizens. What we do know is that United States trade restrictions and economic sanction laws prohibit Blizzard from doing business with residents of certain nations, including Iran. We've recently tightened up our procedures to ensure compliance with those laws, which means we must restrict access to our games by players in those nations.

A Blizzard spokesperson later clarified that changes to comply with United States trade restrictions and economic sanction laws went into effect this week. Blizzard said it was unable to comment further or clarify which countries outside of Iran are also affected.

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