I have several posts scheduled in the pipe, but thanks to an email I just received, I had to write this post. Keep in mind that it took me three hours to write this. It means a lot to me if you would please read it all the way through.
I have received the following short letter from an unsigned Blizzard employee.
it clear that using the game for commercial purpose, such as for
selling unlicensed game guides, is prohibited. Violating the Terms of
Use can result in a ban, as was the case here."
It was from "firstname.lastname@example.org", with the subject "Follow Up," and was not sent from their normal help support desk. Who knows who actually wrote the email, but it has made me decide to write the following post. As of right now, the only official email I have from Blizzard is that I was banned for "exploiting" the economy. So now I have two emails that conflict supposedly both from Blizzard. Understand, even I know how to write a simple php script to send an email to someone from an address other than my own, so this email could be fake. I, however, believe it to actually be from an employee at blizzard, as only they know my email that I used for their beta account.
Here is my response to Blizzard's emails:
We live in changing, incredible times. The internet and in particular the gaming community is no stranger to this concept. As game manufacturers work to create intricate, fun experiences for their players, there are going to be companies which profit from making those experiences easier to traverse. That is the nature and evolution of the business. Before the past decade, it was impossible for sole proprietors, like myself, to successfully market and sell game guides to players.
What I do, however, is something much greater than just sell guides to games. What I actually do is create real competition for the "licensed" scammers of this world. Guess what? You actually benefit from this. Allow me to explain...
Three years ago I walked into Bestbuy and saw a "guide" to world of warcraft. It was nothing more than a review of the game's lore and a terribly basic analysis of which items were the most common in warcraft at that time. It was outdated, with areas of the game listed as present that had been removed. I walked out of that store with an idea, one that eventually blossomed into a blog. That blog became a business, and I found ways to create real, powerful strategies for gamers to use to make virtual currency in a video game.
These "secrets" were marketed as such, but they weren't really secrets. I wasn't putting together a list of exploits or broken mechanics, I was instead showing people what I thought was going to be in that book I picked up three years ago. Factual, researched methods for playing the auction house. I taught people how to think, and that's what made me so successful. Where do I come up with this stuff? Well, I try to answer the following question: "How can I intellectually analyze a situation so as to find the best methods for making gold?" Does this item sell for more when you disenchant it and then craft it into something else? Well then, that's a method for making gold. What I did in Diablo 3 a few days ago, taking gold from a 145% gold find build and then using the money to buy materials from vendors for the purpose of salvaging, that was just a method. It wasn't a secret or an exploit. It was using in game systems in a complicated way, but nothing against the TOS.
My actions caused you to look into my account, and upon finding this blog linked to it, you assumed that I was selling a guide. As of right now, I am not, but obviously I intend to in the future. This is your beta, and I respect the fact that you don't want someone using the beta to improve their chances of selling gold guides.
This was actually not our first meeting, as you have changed your games numerous times before because of the strategies I've made public, whether on your forum or within the confines of my blogging. I've been on dozens of podcasts, posted on nearly every fansite you are affiliated with, and am friends with many of your MVP's. I love the community and take pride in the fact that I don't shy away from it because I have faith in the services I provide. You have a great community within your gamers, and I am honored to partake in it and make it even better.
Getting back to the topic at hand, the concept of selling a gold guide is no different than the millions of how-to books written by passionate hobbyists for every fun activity under the sun. The only difference here is that I'm not licensed, just a man on the internet using his brain to produce content so valuable that people will pay for it. Not exploits. Not secrets. Simplification. Thinkers like myself take complicated systems and break them down into easy to manage chunks for our audiences. That's exactly what I was doing with the Diablo 3 Beta.
Remember how I said that I did something more, that I actually brought competition to the market? I am different from those that wish to scam players; you know, the same people who are selling exactly what I picked up in Best Buy and was disgusted by three years ago. The difference between me and them, is that I am open, honest, and deliver on my promises to those who buy from me. I teach players to be better players and I'm very, very good at it. Due to this fact, I am in many ways not the same animal as those companies that try to make a quick buck off your games. However I will always be labeled, by outsiders and your company, as such.
Blizzard, if your TOS is against profit, then why do you allow fan sites to have ads? Why are fan sites allowed to profit from your game? What is the difference between a fan site making $17 from google ads off a person in a year and a gold guide doing the same thing? The gold guide is more efficient, when done correctly, and often more valuable to the buyer. At least one of my gold guides is. I'm the future of this industry. Just look at people like Day, who teach players to be better players, in the truest sense of the word, and get paid to do so. I'm not like the Athene's or Swifty's of this world, selling basic information and entertainment all bundled into a deceptive pile of seemingly useful garbage.
I cannot think of a single, popular fan site that does not have ads or even a forum membership. They make no effort to disguise the fact that they are compiling information into a single location and making money in the process. A gold guide, is the same thing, but better for the buyer. Maybe the problem is in the fact that the marketing sells one thing, and the buyer gets something else. I market a gold guide, but what I actually do is convert an exploit seeking player into a better thinker who can succeed without breaking the TOS. In many ways, I am helping your business by showing people how to have more fun playing your games, which keeps them playing longer. That's right, you actually benefit from what I do. To give you a number, I have helped over 6,000 wow players with paid guides and have had over 3,000,000 hits to my previously owned and free gold blog. That's a lot of players I've helped to stay interested in your games.
Blizzard, I believe that I am the perfect candidate for testing the RMAH through a Beta Key. If you wish, I will report every single idea that enters this brain of mine to your support staff and the beta forums (should you wish that). Why not bring on board someone who has literally dedicated himself and made a living off of analyzing your economies? Think of me as the Mad Money guy for Diablo 3.
That being said, I am not currently selling any gold guides, as I have sold off my previous business and am in the process of creating a new one for Diablo 3. The guide is called Diablo 3 Gold Secrets, and it is not complete, nor am I going to sell a single copy until I have had enough time to analyze the retail version of the game
Good day to you, and I look forward to the release of your game.
PS: Can you change the spelling of the "Marko" that the one guard talks about letting die in the first level of the game? That would be awesome ;-)
To you, the reader, this is the last I will speak of this ban. I have plenty of articles written from the short time I was in the beta (I spent 40 hours writing/editing videos) and hopefully I will continue to post daily up to and beyond the release of Diablo 3.