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World of Warcraft's subreddit taken offline in protest, and plunges into controversy

Owen S. Good is a longtime veteran of video games writing, well known for his coverage of sports and racing games.

The top moderator of Reddit's World of Warcraft subreddit took it offline last night as a protest against server issues plaguing the game following the launch of the highly anticipated Warlords of Draenor expansion.

The subreddit, r/WoW, has since returned, evidently because its owner was finally able to log in. But what was done ostensibly to express consumer displeasure has plunged one of Reddit's largest gaming subreddit into controversy and recrimination.

It began late yesterday afternoon when nitesmoke, the board's top moderator, took the subreddit private "until I am able to log into the game." Nitesmoke faced a furious response on Twitter, calling the action childish and spiteful.

"As a form of consumer advocacy and protest, the subreddit was taken offline as a way to send a message to Blizzard that this wasn't acceptable," said a different moderator, aphoenix — while also apologizing to the community and saying that such reasoning "doesn't work."

"Being that we typically log a million hits per day, /r/wow has a significant claim as a fan website," aphoenix added. "'Going dark' in protest has worked for a variety of other protests, and it could work for this as well."

A Blizzard community manager even got involved. "I've always appreciated what you've done," tweeted Jonathan Brown, a senior community representative, "but r/WoW shouldn't be a hostage. It should always be there for the community."

Nitesmoke's reply:

Brown's response to that:

A new subreddit — r/realWoW — was created yesterday in protest of nitesmoke's actions and the idea such a large forum can be taken down by the whim of a single moderator. Still, others have pointed out Reddit's hands-off approach to how subreddits are administered, stepping in only when conduct verges on criminal. Few seem to be comfortable with the idea of Reddit summarily stripping forum ownership from the redditor who started it.

For his part, nitesmoke mentioned he had been a moderator on r/Diablo when Diablo 3 faced extended login problems after its 2012 launch. "It's part of the reason I'm so annoyed. This is the second time I've had to deal with angry masses during one of Blizz's botched launches," nitesmoke wrote.

Eventually, nitesmoke was able to log in to World of Warcraft and restored r/WoW as promised, but the outrage lingers into today.

r/WoW has as of this writing has more than 190,000 subscribers. This listing shows it as the seventh-most subscribed gaming subreddit, though its subscription figure is old and about 60,000 fewer.