Blizzard Wins $88M from Girl Operating WOW Private Servers

In case you missed it, World of Warcraft developer Blizzard recently scored a whopping $88,594,539 judgment against a company that was operating and charging players to access World of Warcraft emulator servers.

The ruling was handed down on August 10 by the U.S. District Court of the Central District of California and targeted Alyson Reeves, who was operating under the business name of ScapeGaming. The huge dollar figure was calculated by combining the $3,052,339 the defendant received from users of her service via Paypal, statutory damages of $85,478,600 (calculated by multiplying ScapeGaming’s 427,393 users times the statutory minimum of $200 per “act of circumvention and/or performance of service”) and another $63,600 in attorney’s fees.

Additionally, if Reeves has trouble paying, she will see post-judgment interest accumulate at the “rate provided by law” until the entire sum is recovered.

Court documents reveal that up to 32,000 players were using the organization’s servers each day.

A statement from Blizzard on its victory read:

Our ultimate goal is to create the best games in the world, and that means we need to protect our games and safeguard our players’ experiences with them. Server emulators that use Blizzard’s IP facilitate piracy and offer unauthorized, inconsistent gaming experiences that can damage Blizzard’s reputation and goodwill with players. We take these types of threats very seriously and will continue to take every available measure to protect our rights globally.

While the ScapeGaming website is closed, for some frothy comments check out the group’s still active Facebook fan page.

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  1. 0
    Daelda says:

    People have murdered other people over losing games of Monopoly. People have comitted suicide over being told that someone doesn’t want to go out with them. Are you saying that no one should ever say no to a date (especially with overweight, lonely, socially inept people), because that other person just might commit suicide because of it?

    The lady was in the wrong. Not only was she in the wrong, but she did *nothing* to defend herself or her actions. She thumbed her nose at Blizzard and the judicial system. Now, is it possible that someone will find that instead of appearing in court, she commited suicide? Yes, it is. It is also possible that she fled the country with her ill-gotten gains. Or, she’s just hoping that if she just ignores the situation, it will all go away. Some people are like that. Of course, another possibility is that she is so freaked out about being caught that she is completely paralyzed with fear and doesn’t know what to do, so she is doing nothing. Until we hear more, we won’t know which of those is true.

  2. 0
    Erasmus Darwin says:

    In one article, I think they said the $3M figure came from Paypal’s records.  Even if the defendant has fled to the Bahamas or whatever, it wouldn’t be too hard for Paypal to answer a subpoena requesting how much money was sent to or whatever the public donation address was.

  3. 0
    Mortium says:

    You are assuming that she did in fact make $3M from her server. Considering she didn’t even hire an imbecile of an attorney to put up a defense, I’m inclined to think that Blizz’s contention that she made $3M is not accurate.

    However, since she didn’t put up any defense, there was no discovery, all of Blizzard’s allegations went uncontested, and therefore the court was forced to assume they were true.

  4. 0
    Erasmus Darwin says:

    I checked a bunch of articles on the incident, and it seemed like none of them really had much information about her — name (Alyson Reeves, obviously), general location (Georgia), one online handle (Peyton), and that she ran Scapegaming.  No age listed at all.  The most information seems to be in the Gamasutra article, but it still seems to be information based off of the court filings rather than anyone actually tracking her down.

    In the absence of any age indicator, I think it would probably be better to assume "woman" rather than "girl".  That’s what various other sites seemed to use.

  5. 0
    Thad says:

    "Girl"?  How old is she?  If the defendant were an adult male, would you have referred to him as a "boy" in your headline?

    On the subject of the article: I disagreed with the private ruling a few years back, but the important distinction there is that is a free-as-in-beer service; WoW is a pay-by-the-month, and she was profiting from running a private server.

    I definitely think she should be liable for millions, but $85 mil is grossly excessive.  I’m no fan of anti-circumvention law, and a $200 minimum for violation is just flat-out crazy.  $15 mil would be more than sufficient to serve as punitive damages — and is almost certainly more money than she’ll make in her life.

  6. 0
    Erasmus Darwin says:

    And there’s also wonderful Star Control 2 which had its source-code released by the developers (available as the Ur-Quan Masters because the devs don’t have the rights to the SC name).

  7. 0
    Thad says:

    Weeeell, 4 off the top of my head.  There are a lot more more (hell, id itself has half-a-dozen more than just Doom and Quake).  But you’re right, it doesn’t happen as often as it should.

  8. 0
    Thad says:

    Actually, quite a lot of major games have had their source released: Doom, Quake, and Marathon 2, off the top of my head.

    Often they still charge for the content (eg you still have to pay for anything past the shareware portion of Doom), but the source code is freely available to anyone who wants it.

  9. 0
    BCD303 says:

    As a gamer who has a long time additcion to wow, (playing for about 5 years , currently a GM and keen as hell to kick the habbit) i have known about private survers but know nothing about them. i always asumed poeple created them to test builds , gear , spell cycles ect.

    what i am getting at , what is the point or why would poeple sign up and pay for this sort of thing?

    can anyone fill me in?

    BCD303 "Speedy thing goes in. Speedy thing comes out."

  10. 0
    asmodai says:

    That’s their choice though…

    They committed the illegal act, they incurred the penalty for doing it and then they choose to end their own life.  Tough.

    Personal responsibility for your actions is a bitch… ; )

    As for excessive, as if Blizz is ever going to see more than a fraction of this money.  We’re not talking some teen emulating a private server in his home so he can watch NElves dance nekkid, this is a for profit mob and, from the appearances, a pretty serious one if they can support half a million user accounts in total with 32k users logging on each day (ie. they must have invested significantly in hardware and bandwidth for hosting the server).

  11. 0
    Duffy says:

    Running a private server requires access and emulation of software that is not publicaly for sale or distribution that uses assets entirely created by another company. The WoW disc is not adequate for setting up a server, just a client.

    Therefore a private server must emulate or use "stolen" code. Including the particular chunk of code that validates Warden and ensures your client is connected to a valid Blizzard server from the server-side.

  12. 0
    Matthew says:

    She isn’t being done for changing lines of plaintext in a file. She hasn’t; people connecting to the private server have to do that themselves.

    The private server acts like Blizzard’s, which must have been built up by reverse engineering the game to work out how their servers operate and then replicating that functionality, which is a massive violation of the TOS. At some point during login the game will also presumably say, "Hi, are you definitely a Blizzard-authorised server?" and then shut down if it doesn’t get the right reply. That means the private server has to pretend to be an authorised system.

    She was making millions of dollars running a server that pretends to be Blizzard’s, built by reverse engineering Blizzard’s IP, in order for people to be able to play WoW for free without ever giving any money to Blizzard. $88mil may be excessive, but she’s hardly innocent.

  13. 0
    Speeder says:

    Silly US laws GO!!!!


    Ok, first, the private server, does not use any blizzard copyrighted material (because obviously blizzard protects it very closely…), it was made from ground up.

    Also, the game there are not even a need to crack it, you can test yourself with your (legal copy, please) of WoW, find a file named something like "" (I don’t remember the correct name, but was close to that), and you can edit it to point to ANY server you like (blizzard, or not). And the game will happily use that server.



    So, using a legal software, to make a server for a legal game, is illegal?

    Or a better question, based on the ruling is: Changing lines of plaintext in a file, is "circunventing DRM", and thus illegal in the DCMA? The pretext that this open is REALLY dangerous. If other companies realize what blizzard managed to do, soon there will be players paying millions for hacking saving files.


  14. 0
    Daelda says:

    From what I read, this was a "Default" judgement. According to Wikipedia, "Default judgment is a binding judgment in favor of the plaintiff when the defendant has not responded to a summons or has failed to appear before a court of law."

    In other words, she didn’t put up any sort of a defense. Heck, she may not have even shown up for the trial. She basically told the judge, "I’m guilty and whatever you and Blizzard decide is okay with me."

    If she had put up *any* sort of defense, or even just shown up at the trial, looking decent and perhaps even somewhat apologetic for her actions, perhaps the judgement might not have been so harsh against her. But what was the judge to think when not only does she earn $3 million off of Blizzard’s work, but she then doesn’t use a single penny to hire a lawyer to represent herself in court or even show up herself? If I was the judge, I would only be left to think that she really doesn’t care what the law thinks. That she feels she is immune to the law and thinks if she just ignores it, it will just go away.

    Yes, I feel sorry for any children she may have – but not because of this judgement. I feel sorry for them because this woman may be able to make $3 million dollars, but she hasn’t grown up yet or learned to take responsibility for her actions. If you do something – right or wrong – at least be willing to show up and tell the judge your side of the story. Or hire a lawyer to do it. Something.

  15. 0
    Duffy says:

    Eh, it’s not that bad really.

    The reason the number is so high is because it’s a default judgement. She never showed to court. In terms of ruining her life, it will probably just make her about average to above average in debt. She’ll file for bankruptcy and since it’s usecured debt, most of it if not all, will disappear. The only part she will probably be entirely responsible for is the owed profit portion which in theory is money and assets she should already have available.

    The net effect will probably be a reversion to her financial status before she started her server buisness with the addition of a really bad credit rating and probably some garnished wages pending how the appeal goes on lowering the penalty portion.

    As to her children, yes it would mean a slimmer chance at inheriting anything of value but at least they can’t inherit the debt.

  16. 0
    Alex says:

    This was a civil case, not a criminal case, so jail time doesn’t come into play.

    OTOH she can appeal the amount, and it’ll probably get reduced if she does.

    I’m not under the affluence of incohol as some thinkle peep I am. I’m not half as thunk as you might drink. I fool so feelish I don’t know who is me, and the drunker I stand here, the longer I get.

  17. 0
    Ambiguous says:

    Ouch… 88 million with accruing interest? 

    That will ruin her life.  She’ll never be able to pay it off, and the debt will only keep getting larger.  If she has kids and dies while paying off the debt, all her assets will be liquidated and nothing will go to the heirs.  She wouldn’t even be able to declare bankruptcy, as last I knew bankruptcy won’t get you out of court ordered liability (correct me if I’m wrong on that one.)

    I can understand making an example out of someone who profited so much off of their work, but this just seems a little too much.

    I mean, I know criminals are criminals, but I’d rather see her sent to jail for a number of years, giving her a second chance, than just dropping a financial nuke on the rest of her and her family’s (if any) future.


  18. 0
    Thad says:

    Weeeeell, I think there’s an argument to be made that reverse engineering should be legal.  But yeah, profiting from someone else’s game-as-a-service model is not something I’d defend.

  19. 0
    Alex says:

    There’s enough private WoW servers out there that it’s not worth the time or effort to go after all of them. This lady made three million dollars off hers. IMO that definitely made her a target.

    I’m not under the affluence of incohol as some thinkle peep I am. I’m not half as thunk as you might drink. I fool so feelish I don’t know who is me, and the drunker I stand here, the longer I get.

  20. 0
    Thad says:

    Doubt it; remember bnetd?  It was a alternative that Blizzard shut down.  Those guys weren’t profiting.

    I’m sure the fact that Reeves made millions at Blizzard’s expense made her an attractive target, but they would have gone after her even if she hadn’t.


  21. 0
    Neeneko says:

    I could potentially see some type of revenue share license… but realistically I doubt they will do something like that.  Blizzard’s chief worry is protecting their brand and image… so providing a consistent gaming experience.  Private servers, even if they were running official software, provide different game experiences, which can cause marketplace confusion (or so the marketing thinking goes) thus are a danger.

    TBH, there is something to this meme.   When you allow altered or degraded versions of your brand out there, people see them and assume that they are the ‘official’ version (even if it is just looking over a friend’s shoulder) which can lead to a lower (or just incorrect) view of the brand.

    This is actually one of the reasons so many game hardware manufacturers are so strict about ‘official’ replacement parts…. put a crappy (or just misconfigured, since embedded stuff really does care about things like sleep behavior) hard drive or flakey memory to save a few bucks and people start blaming the game manufacturer for the system not working all that well.  Yes… people really do blame hardware companies when they make mods and the unit does not work as well, then they show it to other people who walk away thinking ‘wow, that hardware is crappy’.  It is a recurring frustration…

  22. 0
    E. Zachary Knight says:

    This. I would love it if more companies would release server code and such for older games they have no intentions to support any more. But as things go, if there is no profit to be made, most game companies don’t see any reason for it.

    As far as I know, only one major game has been publicly released in source code and that is the original Sim City. It happens alot in the indie sector, but extremely rarely in commercial sectors.

    E. Zachary Knight
    Oklahoma City Chapter of the ECA

    E. Zachary Knight
    Divine Knight Gaming
    Oklahoma Game Development
    Rusty Outlook
    Random Tower
    My Patreon

  23. 0
    Zerodash says:

    What if Blizzard offered a license to setup a private WOW server?  Seems far-fetched, but not a bad way to monetize such a practice.  Maybe 10-15 years from now when the WOW gravy train has run out of steam…

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