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Fan gets all-expense paid trip to BlizzCon for handing over StarCraft’s source code

A much happier ending than a protracted court case

Blizzard Entertainment
Charlie Hall is Polygon’s tabletop editor. In 10-plus years as a journalist & photographer, he has covered simulation, strategy, and spacefaring games, as well as public policy.

In grade school, we all learned that when you find something that belongs to someone else, you give it back to them. It’s only later in life that we sometimes have to get the courts involved in such matters. Thankfully, that wasn’t the case a few weeks ago, when one Blizzard fan found the original source code for StarCraft in a box of junk on eBay and willingly handed it over to the company that created it.

His reward for being a good citizen of the internet? An all-expense paid trip to BlizzCon, a boatload of branded loot and drinks with the developers.

Our story begins nearly a month ago when Reddit user Khemist49 bought a lot of goods off eBay that looked like they might have come from an abandoned storage unit. Inside was a gold-colored disk labeled “StarCraft Gold Master Source Code.”

This clearly wasn’t a copy of the retail game, but rather the proprietary game code the Blizzard used to make the retail game. That’s something that was never intended to be released in public.

Khemist49 went to Reddit, of course, to tell people about his find and ask for advice. He also went to the NintendoAge forums. He even did an unboxing of sorts, streaming himself opening the files up on Twitch. At least part of his goal appears to have been to try and find out what the disk was worth.

All the while, many other people out there warned him he might not be on the best legal footing here. His anonymity, if there is such a thing anymore, was also pretty much shot.

Not long after, Khemist49’s phone rang. On the other end was a lawyer representing Blizzard. Turns out the disk was lost, and feared stolen. After consulting with his own lawyer, Khemist49 did what any kindergartner would have done in that situation and gave Blizzard its property back.

As a reward, Blizzard sent him a copy of Overwatch and $250 in Blizzard store credit.

It also invited him to BlizzCon, all expenses paid.

“A week later I got another call from a Blizzard employee,” Khemist49 wrote. “He wanted to thank me for returning their disc (which was in fact stolen). He then asked me if I had ever heard of BlizzCon. I said, ‘Well, yeah of course but it's impossible for me to go, I live in the east coast and the badges are always sold out before you can refresh the page.’ He said, ‘Well, the reason we are calling you is to invite you to BlizzCon, all expenses paid, and we would love to take you out for drinks.’ I didn't know what to say, I was shocked. I expected nothing more than the free game and the store credit. After, I thanked him 1,000 times.”

The reward for Khemist49’s good deed.
Khemist49 on Reddit

The cherry on top was when, a few days later, a crate full of even more Blizzard games showed up on his doorstep, along with a full set of Overwatch-branded Razer peripherals.

Apparently this was a big, big deal for Blizzard. Given that StarCraft is a game of historical importance at this point, securing the game’s source code is a big deal for fans of the real-time strategy genre globally.

Polygon reached out to Blizzard for comment. They could confirm the story, but declined to get into the nitty gritty.

“We know there’s a lot of curiosity around this story,” wrote Blizzard’s public relations manager Bob Colayco. “What we can say is that a Blizzard fan managed to get their hands on a real copy of the StarCraft source code and, fortunately, this person was gracious enough to return the disc to us. We wanted to show an appropriate level of appreciation to the player for doing the right thing, not just from Blizzard, but on behalf of the large and active community of players who still enjoy StarCraft today.”

Blizzard recently made Starcraft and Starcraft: Brood War free, no strings attached. You can download and play the games right now.

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