With the release of Warcraft 3 Reforged remaster this week, Blizzard are enforcing a newly updated Acceptable Use Policy (a rebrand of the classic EULA) with some quite far reaching impact for the once hustling and bustling game modding community.
The section about mods, or custom games now reads:
Custom Games are and shall remain the sole and exclusive property of Blizzard. Without limiting the foregoing, you hereby assign to Blizzard all of your rights, title, and interest in and to all Custom Games, including but not limited to any copyrights in the content of any Custom Games.
The addition of “including but not limited to any copyrights in the content of any Custom Games,” means that modders will forfeit the ownership of any mod names, custom models and maps, and that can have a massive impact going forward.
Blizzard’s games have historically given rise to a handful of new genres, with the Warcraft 3 mod Defence of the Ancients (DOTA) giving rise to the Multiplayer Online Battle Arena (MOBA) genre. That in turn led to League of Legends and a Valve owned and made standalone sequel DOTA2, after they bought the copyright from the mod’s creators. That stuck in Blizzard’s craw and they actually took Valve to court to try and wrestle the brand into their control. That was eventually settled out of court in 2012, with Blizzard going on to create the DOTA-esque Heroes of the Storm. Blizzard clearly don’t want to allow the possibility of that happening again.
You can of course still take the gameplay ideas and create something new, but when you have something well known within a particular community and gaining traction, having brand awareness is important. There have been countless instances when mods have gone on to become full games, such as DayZ spawning out of Arma II and Counter-Strike from Half-Life. In both those cases the original game creator brought the modders into the fold and spun the games off as standalone products, but there’s instances, such as the Insurgency or Red Orchestra, where those modders go it alone.
With Blizzards new terms, those modder teams would have to give up the name that they had come up with. The original characters, art and writing would all become Blizzard’s.