Last week, Blizzard won a court case in Germany against Bossland GmbH, the German company responsible for making and selling bot programs for World of Warcraft, among many other games. Players can use these bots to automate certain actions, leaving their characters to, say, run a mining or herb picking route for hours at a time. That in itself isn’t too disruptive, but bots are also very helpful in WoW’s PvP arena; they can put out a perfect combination of abilities while the player only has to worry about movement.
World of Warcraft is like, the final raid boss of the best MMORPGs on PC.
That’s the biggest problem with bots, and now Germany’s Federal Court of Justice has ruled that their distribution is anti-competitive. As a result, Honorbuddy can no longer be sold or used in Germany in its current form.
It has also inspired a change in policy by Bossland to compensate for their growing legal costs and low sales: they announced on their forums that all existing ‘lifetime’ licences for their WoW, Hearthstone and Diablo 3 bots will now “expire after two years of usage”, meaning those customers will at some point have to make another purchase. If users have held a lifetime licence for more than two years already, they will need to be renewed immediately.
Bossland justify this by saying ‘lifetime’ licences have always expired whenever their bots are updated to a new version, and have only been maintained out of courtesy. German fan site Mein-MMO quotes them saying:
"The Lifetime Keys are always based on the corresponding Honorbuddy version, just because no one sees it, it does not mean that it is not a new product."
There's quite a lot of salt about this over on the Bossland forums, if schadenfreude is your thing. Moreover, Bossland say this "is just the beginning" as further cases are pending at Germany’s Federal Court and in the High Court of England and Wales. We're not lawyers here at PCGN, but the ruling in this case will probably count as precedent for the next case in Germany. Its impact on the case in the UK is less clear.
Before we declare this the end of botting in WoW, however, Bossland interprets other parts of the judgement as positive for their business. In that forum announcement, they say the court ruled that WoW can be "reverse engineered, as long as it is just for the program code and as long as no audio-visual elements are shown".