World of Warcraft is supposed to take place in a fantasy online universe without the national borders of the real world. But if you live in Iran, you’ve been banished.
Blizzard has cut off access to players in the country, blaming United States trade sanctions. The company says it has recently tightened up its procedures for complying with these sanctions, which it says means it cannot do business with residents of certain nations, including Iran.
To make things even worse for affected players, Blizzard says the relevant law “prevents us from providing any refunds, credits, transfers, or other service options to accounts in these countries. We apologize for any inconvenience this causes and will happily lift these restrictions as soon as US law allows.”
The company notes that this issue is covered by its terms and conditions. In reality it doesn’t really matter if the law prevents it giving refunds as it’s unlikely anyone in Iran is going to have much luck taking the matter to court.
Iranian players had complained about not being able to access the site for several days, prompting speculation about government censorship. There have been uncomfirmed reports that some players have been diverted to a page saying the game’s references to supersitition and mythology, along with violent content and scantitly clad female characters all make it unsuitable. Blizzard says it “cannot speak to any reports surrounding the Iranian government restricting games from its citizens.”
For now at least it appears that using a proxy server that make the player appear to come from outside of Iran will allow continued play.
The incident comes a couple of months after Apple’s own implementation of the trade sanctions caused controversy. A US-born woman of Iranian heritage claimed she was barred from buying an iPad in a Georgia Apple store because a salesman overheard her speaking Farsi. Apple claimed the salesman had reason to believe the iPad was being bought with the intention of taking it to Iran, and that it was a breach of the trade embargo to sell it with that knowledge. US government officials later said this wasn’t the case and the ban only applied to the retailer physically exporting goods.