Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Add-ons can no longer ask for donations


Perhaps most of you have seen this already, but Blizzard is now prohibiting all donation solicitations from add-ons. You know how you open up an add-on, maybe to tweak the position of something, or see if you have the latest version - and there's a little inconspicuous button that says "Donate"? That's gotta go. Add-on developers can have donate links on their website, but having them in game is a no-no.

Can Blizzard do this? Of course - it's their game. They absolutely have the right to limit any and all user-created add-ons at any time, in any way. Is it a good idea for them to do this? I don't think so, for a number of reasons.

The first and most obvious reason that I see is that it's a slap in the face to the players who create these add-ons. They're basically working for Blizzard for nothing, and now they can't even ask for donations? Yes, I realize that no one is *forcing* them to create add-ons for no pay. It's their own choice. I don't care. I still think it's a slap in the face. Being able to ask for donations on a website is great, but how many people really go to the website? Certainly some. But not all. And many, many people don't even go to the website to download - they use WowMatrix, or Curse. Zorba, the creator of QuestHelper, talks about how helpful in-game donations are:

"The funny thing about donations is that a lot of people will gladly donate, but you have to remind them. Depending on how you count it, adding a simple unobtrusive message on logon saying "hey we're donation-supported, if you really like QH please donate" increased income anywhere from five-fold to hundred-fold."

Without this extra income, user-created add-ons will suffer. When you're spending hours and hours a week maintaining an add-on and getting little more than the occasional "nice job!" comment, many people, like Zorba, will just stop updating them - which, frankly, sucks. I'm not saying that people should rely on add-ons to play the game. I'm saying that there are certain add-ons that make the game a richer, better experience.

It should be known that I *don't* think add-on devs should charge players money to use their add-on, because people shouldn't be using Blizzard as a medium to make money. "But people who ask for donations use Blizzard as a medium to make money too!", you might say. In my mind, they're different. With a pay-to-play add-on, if you download it, the developer will have a 100% chance to make money. With a donation based add-on, if you download it, the chance that the developer makes money is up to you. You can very easily just ignore the donate button. So Blizz has prohibited the pay-to-play option for add-ons, and I think that's a good thing.

In a thread on my guild forums, someone brought up the point that donation links fall into the same category as advertising, or gold farmers. They're all soliciting something. Yes, you can ignore all of them, but they all have the potential to be annoying. But gold farmers, for instance, spam general and trade chat. You walk into a city, you see gold farmers; they're in your face. With an add-on, if the little Donate button offends you *that much*, you can just stop using that add-on. Simple! Another guildie mentioned that the two are also different because Blizzard publicly supports the development of user-created add-ons, whereas they definitely do NOT support gold farmers.

It seems to me that the bottom line is that Blizzard wants add-ons free of advertisements. From a legal standpoint, they want to have more control over those aspects of the game that are user-created. Supposedly Blizzard took issue with Carbonite, an add-on that provides everything from inventory searches to battleground macros, privacy settings to an integrated map. However, to get all these features, they charge 1 - 3 dollars per month for a "premium" version. They also had advertisements either in game or in the add-on, something like that (I'm not sure what the ads really were - I've never used the add-on and can't seem to find any specific information about the ads). I doubt that this was the *one* thing that influenced Blizz's decision to ban donations, but it could have been part of it. So Blizzard puts out a blanket ban on ads, which includes banning donation requests.

On that guild forum thread, our guild leader posted:

"Ultimately, I'm not opposed to disallowing a special "paid" version of a mod; I'm just wondering what the problem with this button is. I fail to see how that affects Blizz's bottom line."

I fail to see that as well.



2 remarks:

SolIllandra said...

My initial thought is to prevent any sort of oddity from happening. My guess is that the developers probably had very little to do with this decision and that their legal department had a great deal. They probably went for absolutes to prevent any arguments and so that they have a nice wide net to cast to prevent silly things like Carbonite. (which really did need to get slapped down, in my opinion).I personally wish that it was different, as it is nice to think that addons like QH and Grid and such are being supported, but in these days of tricky legal shennanigns, I can also see where the legal deptartment is coming from.

Boomdaddy said...

My view is that addon developers are ostensibly working for Blizz for free. They offer (99% of the time) a free game enhanceing product to the community, that benefits Blizzard by default. They are the real cutting edge of some parts of Blizz's development team. Blizz gets to see happy customers with nice tools such as outfitter, which make them more loyal to the game. They then get to add their own versions of what they now know is an important customer want, to the game. Its win win all the way for Blizz.

If the guys can make a few quid/bucks through donations etc more power to them, as they deserve a little bit back from the community as a whole.

As long as the addons are not farming/bot related, its fine by me and the natural conclusion of a free market.

P S -Will Blizz start taking Bloggers to court over selling WoW related merchandise soon too?