Private servers have been a part of MMO culture for as long as the genre exists, and they have been a particularly stinging thorn in the side of the developers running their official servers. These servers essentially allow players to play pirated copies of these games on privately owned servers and usually have their own rulesets or mods installed to customize the experience. Some of these servers give the player more power to play around with the game's systems, others fill a niche that isn't being catered to by the original developers. While quite a few of these servers continue to exist without much of a problem, some of the more prominent ones run the risk of being taken down. The latest in a long line of servers who have been told to cease and desist their activities immediately is Nostalrius, a private server of the popular MMO World of Warcraft by Blizzard Entertainment.
Nostalrius recently received a letter from representatives of Blizzard Entertainment to cease operations immediately, saying that their legal council is preparing to sue Nostalrius' hosting company OVH, forcing the popular private server to shut down their servers. The community was notified of this decision in a blog post on the official Nostalrius website.
Yesterday, we received a letter of formal notice from US and french lawyers, acting on behalf of Blizzard Entertainment, preparing to stand trial against our hosting company OVH and ourselves in less than a week now. This means the de facto end of Nostalrius under its current form.
As soon as we received this letter, we decided to inform the team and players about the future of Nostalrius, where we have all passionately committed our time and energy as volunteers.
While the shutting down of a private server isn't all that interesting in and of itself, Nostalrius is a bit different. Nostalrius catered to a very specific niche: the vanilla WoW crowd. This means that the version running on their servers is very close to the original retail version of World of Warcraft without all the expansions that came out after it. Vanilla WoW has long been seen as the best version of the game, which is an opinion Blizzard themselves deny is as prevalent as people claim it to be. This seems to be pretty far from the truth if the statistics for the private server is any indication: nearly a million people have registered for the private server, and the server has reached over 15000 concurrent players during peak hours, indicating that the interest for a pure vanilla server is definitely there.
As a response to the cease and desist, the Nostalrius staff started a petition bundled with an open letter to Blizzard (which is currently at about 18,000 signatures) asking the company to reevaluate their position regarding legacy servers, pointing out that the interest in their private server should be enough of an indication to consider opening up an official vanilla WoW server. The open letter also states that the Nostalrius staff is willing to share their data collected over the course of the server's lifespan to help set up a legacy server, all on a volunteer basis.
We never saw our community as a threat for Blizzard. It sounds more like a transverse place where players can continue to enjoy old World of Warcraft's games no longer available, maybe until a new expansion appears; a huge and powerful community of fans that remains attached to future Blizzard games, as we have in no other gaming company.
We don’t have the pretention to come up with a complete solution regarding legacy servers that you and your company didn't already think about, but we'd be glad and honored to share it with you if you're interested, still on a volunteer basis.
What do you think of Blizzard's decision to shut Nostalrius down? Would you be interested in an official legacy server run by Blizzard? Let us know in the comments!
Blizzard is, of course, completely within their rights to shut the private server down. World of Warcraft is their property, and they alone have the power to decide what happens with that property. What I do like about Nostalrius is that they ran the entire thing on a volunteer-only basis, and the server didn't have a cash shop like many other private servers have. Everything they have said indicates that they operated this server because they love the game and not because they wanted to profit off the back of property they did not own. They are also running a petition, not asking Blizzard to allow them to continue, but to ask them to reconsider their stance regarding an official legacy server. Seems like Nostalrius were in the wrong for all the right reasons, and I hope Blizzard takes some time to think about legacy servers.