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Blizzard breaks silence on Nostalrius WoW server, says classic servers under discussion

Could old-school World of Warcraft fans finally get what they want?

Michael McWhertor is a journalist with more than 17 years of experience covering video games, technology, movies, TV, and entertainment.

Weeks after forcing the closure of a private World of Warcraft server, Blizzard is speaking up on the cease and desist filed against the developers of Nostalrius, a popular, unofficial server where fans could play the classic version of the MMO. And based on comments from Blizzard, it sounds like the company is seriously considering giving fans the option to play on official, "vanilla" World of Warcraft servers — or at least something closer to that than the current version of the game.

World of Warcraft executive producer J. Allen Brack wrote on the game's official forums that Blizzard has been "closely following the Nostalrius discussion."

"We have been discussing classic servers for years"

"Our silence on this subject definitely doesn't reflect our level of engagement and passion around this topic," Brack said. "We hear you. Many of us across Blizzard and the WoW Dev team have been passionate players ever since classic WoW. In fact, I personally work at Blizzard because of my love for classic WoW.

"We have been discussing classic servers for years — it's a topic every BlizzCon — and especially over the past few weeks. From active internal team discussions to after-hours meetings with leadership, this subject has been highly debated."

Brack said Blizzard requested the closure of Nostalrius, which reportedly boasted some 800,000 accounts, to protect its property.

"[F]ailure to protect against intellectual property infringement would damage Blizzard's rights," Brack explained. "This applies to anything that uses WoW's IP, including unofficial servers. And while we've looked into the possibility — there is not a clear legal path to protect Blizzard's IP and grant an operating license to a pirate server."

Blizzard has explored developing its own "classic servers," Brack said, but noted "tremendous operational challenges to integrating classic servers" and the difficulty of supporting multiple live versions of the game. But Blizzard has considered another option for longtime Warcraft fans.

"We explored options for developing classic servers and none could be executed without great difficulty."

"So what can we do to capture that nostalgia of when WoW first launched?" Brack said. "Over the years we have talked about a 'pristine realm'. In essence that would turn off all leveling acceleration including character transfers, heirloom gear, character boosts, Recruit-A-Friend bonuses, WoW Token, and access to cross realm zones, as well as group finder. We aren't sure whether this version of a clean slate is something that would appeal to the community and it's still an open topic of discussion."

What's more, Brack said Blizzard has also been in contact with "some of the folks who operated Nostalrius," but didn't specify what the nature of those talks were about.

"They obviously care deeply about the game, and we look forward to more conversations with them in the coming weeks," Brack said.

Response from World of Warcraft fans in the forums has been mixed. While some are appreciative that Blizzard is responding publicly to the Nostalrius situation at all, many seem to believe the "pristine server" concept doesn't go far enough. Some players continue to push for a classic, "vanilla" implementation of the game — a version similar to the pre-Cataclysm expansion — and hope Blizzard will work directly with the Nostalrius development team to support old-school World of Warcraft.

World of Warcraft will celebrate its 12th anniversary this November. Blizzard's next expansion for the game, Legion, will be released in August.