It’s hard to believe that 2019 is almost over. Not necessarily unwelcome, but hard to believe. 2019 has been a year in more ways than any of us wants to consider. It feels like we are approaching 2020 the same sense of inevitable trepidation when we notice too late we are about to step a huge patch of ice.
Despite all the year-iness 2019 brought, it was also the start of one of my favorite things: writing for MassivelyOP. Penning Lawful Neutral has been hands down one of the best things of the year for me, and I’m so grateful for Bree and Company giving me the opportunity.
In almost new year style, let’s take a moment to reflect on a few of the notable Lawful Neutral articles from year that was, then we’ll round up all of MOP’s legal articles from the entire year.
The most well-received post from the 2019 was definitely the City of Heroes rogue server article. I had just started the research for a different column when the City of Heroes insanity exploded. I was reading the comments section and noticed a few questions comes up again and again about the legality of playing on rogue servers. The day before my column went live, I decided to pivot to rogue servers. It was a whirlwind of research and editing to get everything out in time, but it was well worth the effort.
Each article I write takes hours of research before I start putting proverbial pen to paper, and by far the most research intensive article was the Marvel vs. NCsoft article. The case originally happened back in 2004, so digging through 15 years of internet history to find the complaints and responses was a lot of work. I navigated through the land of broken links and make copious use of the Wayback Machine as I researched my source materials and cross-referenced articles. That article in particular took some doing!
It was also one of those cases that had a totally unsatisfying outcome. Marvel had its work cut out for it, NCsoft was sitting pretty but the case could have really gone either way. Instead of putting up a really interesting trial that could have had far reaching impacts to copyright and trademark law, they settled behind closed doors, so we have no idea what the terms of the settlement were.
The most gratifying article I wrote was What’s China really worth to the Western gaming industry, arising in the midst of Blizzard’s “hold my beer” moment around Blitzchung. I found it particularly gratifying looking at numbers in a vacuum, since otherwise it’s easy to say “oh of course western gaming companies are going after China! All the lootz!” But fitting that in with the socio-political climate and the fact that the overwhelming majority of that money goes to Chinese companies producing games for Chinese audiences changes the story. It makes companies like Blizzard look willfully ignorant about the actual, human situations that surround their attempts to garner ever greater amounts of money.
It also really reaffirmed for me how easy it is to tell a fabricated story by only looking numbers outside of context. I made comments during the Blitzchung international incident about Blizzard kowtowing to China, but after writing this article and understanding more of the situation – not the whole thing, mind you, just more – the term “kowtowing” might have been too soft for the stance Blizzard and other western game companies have adopted.
Like everyone else, I have a favorite article. We always say we can’t possible have a favorite, that we love all our articles equally. But no, I have a favorite. In fact, it was actually two pieces because I started writing the research and had to divide it up because I had too much content. I really loved researching and writing the articles on currency in online games and the money laundering and micro-laundering in the MMO industry.
In those two pieces, I learned so much about how the business of gaming works, both legitimate and illegitimate. Delving into confusing world of currency was a lot of fun. Confusing, but fun. I really enjoyed learning how game companies manipulate the system to avoid being classified as a currency, while still getting most of the benefits of being currency.
Following that up with a detailed investigation into how exactly baddies use that same currency and mechanics in games to launder money, I started to see how the system worked from to nuts to soup – not to mention the examples of how people laundered money in games weren’t even ways I had considered. It was such an eye-opening experience, and that’s why they were my favorite pieces. It’s also really fun to note two months after I wrote that article, Valve admitted that almost all CS:GO key purchases on the marketplace were money laundering purchases and was changing how they worked to prevent that laundering. Coincidence? Yeah, but I can still pretend!
These are just a few of my most notable articles for Lawful Neutral. I know that I can’t wait to see what next year brings in the legal and business shenanigans that game companies get into in their neverending quest to get moar.
Of course, MOP covered so many more legal shenanigans this year that the column couldn’t hope to touch, from the Pinkertons’ RDR2 suit and multiple Activision investor suits to the Crytek v Star Citizen mess and the Riot Games discrimination and harassment suits. We’ve rounded up everything here for your perusal. May 2020 be half as interesting!
China is approving games again, but none of them is from Tencent or Netease
Bethsoft and Behaviour resolve their lawsuit over Westworld and Fallout Shelter
An EVE Online corporation has been hit with a GDPR request from an ex-member
Revisions to Japanese law make console and save data modding illegal
SEC and Wells Fargo settle a suit over 38 Studios
Activision investors are now investigating whether the Bungie split involves securities fraud
The Pinkertons are taking Take-Two to court over Red Dead Redemption 2
Orange Shirt Kid joins the legal battle over Fortnite dances as Epic reintroduces glider re-deploys
The Bethsoft-Behavior lawsuit is over, and now so is Westworld mobile
Heroes of the Storm professionals file lawsuit against former team owner over withheld payments
China’s third round of game approvals still omits Tencent and NetEase
NetEase joins Tencent in move for ‘anti-addiction’ curfews on Chinese mobile gamers
Facebook lawsuit reveals ‘friendly fraud’ tactics it employed against underage online gamers
There’s another investor suit mounting against Activision, this one alleging fraud in Bungie split
EA cuts sale of FIFA currency in Belgium in ongoing lootbox legal conflict
Guild Wars 2 compensates those suspended unjustly in 2018 spyware cheater purge thanks to victim’s GDPR sleuthing
Escape from Tarkov devs apparently abused DMCA to target more than one YouTube critic
That ancient ArcheAge consumer lawsuit against Trion reveals possible rebrand
Pennsylvania legislators introduce video game ‘sin tax’ bill
Take-Two’s crusade against Grand Theft Auto cheat creators continues with another successful lawsuit
Epic Games files to dismiss rapper 2 Milly’s Fortnite dance lawsuit
The Pokemon Go trespassing lawsuit’s proposed settlement terms are absurdly reasonable
The UK’s Fortnite Live event is another convention giving you a free hour in the ball pit; Epic Games takes organizers to court
Fortnite’s rad new hoverboard mode goes live as Carlton’s dance copyright claim hits a snowdrift
Tencent introduces strict rules for streamers playing its games
ZeniMax Media is hit with a trademark dispute over a filing for ‘Redfall’
Call of Duty swatter requests the minimum 20 to 25 year prison sentence
MMO Business Roundup: Fortnite’s lockbox lawsuit, Riot’s diversity boss, Take-Two’s stock, Acti-Blizz’s investor warning
Third law firm joins the chorus threatening suits against Activision Blizzard over the Bungie split
Legal proceedings between Crytek and Star Citizen’s Cloud Imperium move to alternative dispute resolution
Indian police arrest 10 over PUBG ban
Daybreak’s definitely-not-owner Columbus Nova is back in national news again
Lawful Neutral: Dancing around Fortnite’s copyright lawsuits
MMO Business Roundup: Philly’s Overwatch arena, the PUBG Netease settlement, and GDC’s record showing
Call of Duty swatter receives 20 years in prison
Lawful Neutral: The future of MMO game design in a streaming gaming world
Valve and ZeniMax are among the publishers under EU investigation for illegal geo-blocking
Red Dead Redemption 2 and The Pinkertons have settled their legal feud, no shootout required
Nepal has outright banned PUBG over addiction concerns
Fortnite and PUBG are banned by the Iraq parliament
Lawful Neutral: Is it safe to play on City of Heroes’ inevitable rogue servers?
Heroes of the Storm player arrested for making terrorism threats in chat
City of Heroes’ first new rogue server shut down over a fake legal threat, but admins say it’s coming back
China reveals new regulatory system for online video games after more than a year of confusion
PUBG Corp. is suing over the Chinese term for Chicken Dinner as Update 28 goes live
Amid crunch allegations and another dance lawsuit, Epic Games challenges Steam to buff developer payouts
Riot is trying to divert its employees’ gender-discrimination lawsuit to arbitration
Riot Games acknowledges employees planning walkout over company culture
Lawful Neutral: The war over Star Citizen in Crytek v. Cloud Imperium Games
Riot says it will allow arbitration opt-outs, eventually, but it probably won’t stave off the walkout
Riot Games isn’t budging on labor dispute even after employee walkout
Lawful Neutral: What DMCA exemption victories really mean for MMO preservation
Rockstar restricts Red Dead Online’s poker minigame due to regional gambling laws
Anti-lootbox Senator claims gaming lobbyists are getting worried; Nintendo pulls mobile titles from Belgium over lootboxes
‘Gaming disorder’ has been officially added to the World Health Organization’s ICD-11
Flemish Games Association speaks out against Belgium’s loot box ban
Lawful Neutral: Why Josh Hawley’s lockbox regulation Senate bill is dead-on-arrival
The ArcheAge consumer lawsuit against Trion Worlds is still inching onward
California says Riot Games is refusing to fully cooperate with its gender discrimination investigation
Pokemon Go studio Niantic is suing PokeGo++ hackers ahead of Harry Potter: Wizards Unite’s launch
Twitch is suing unnamed parties over the flood of offensive content in the Artifact space
EA absurdly argues video game lootboxes are ‘surprise mechanics’
League of Legends is blocked in Iran and Syria due to US embargo laws
Lawful Neutral: TUG’s Nerd Kingdom is the Real Slim Shady
South Korea’s anti-boosting law has gone into effect
Newly proposed Chinese gaming regulations target romantic plotlines and sexual content
Another DDOS e-thug has landed jail time – this one owes Daybreak $95K
Jordan bans PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, plans to ban Fortnite and others
Lawful Neutral: Dance studios, canvas bags, and ‘false advertising’ in the MMO industry
A lawsuit against Jagex for muting a player is thrown out in five days
UK’s Gambling Commission considers prosecuting video game companies that facilitate gambling
Lawful Neutral: Mr. Krabs’ Wacky Bucks and currency in online games
MMO Business Roundup: Video game gambling, toxicity, post-lawsuit reconciliation, and successful UX design
US Federal Trade Commission outlines the agenda for a lootbox-related workshop on August 7
The ESA’s 2019 E3 journalist database breach wasn’t at all a one-time thing
Lawful Neutral: Money laundering and micro-laundering in the MMO industry
Fortnite hit with data breach lawsuit, Fortnite champ is swatted live on stream
The 2015 ArcheAge lawsuit finally nears a conclusion in the form of a settlement agreement
Former 38 Studios boss Curt Schilling contemplates run for Congress
Lawful Neutral: The long fall of Project Copernicus’ 38 Studios
The Daily Grind: Do you vote in MMO player elections?
Riot settles class action discrimination lawsuit as victims claim victory
Former Elder Scrolls and Guild Wars franchise composer is accused of sexual assault
Blizzard’s lawyers are busy again, this time suing yet another overseas company for ripping off WoW
2017 Call of Duty swatting murder prompts swatting target registration program
Nexon Korea employees stage a protest to stop restructuring and call for job security
UK parliament committee calls for ban on selling lockboxes to kids, deems games industry ‘wilfully obtuse’
Ashen Empires emulator Dransik Rebirth is allegedly shut down by a cease and desist order
Lawful Neutral: Examining Ashes of Creation’s controversial referral program
Gamer involved in CSGO swatting murder gets 15 months in prison and a two-year gaming ban
Steam users in France should be allowed to resell their games according to French court ruling
Australian police are investigating crimes linked to an Overwatch esports team
Physical power armor helmet from Fallout 76 is being recalled due to mold
City of Heroes’ Homecoming rogue servers are now blocking copyright-infringing characters
Lawful Neutral: Endorsements, disclosures, and the games industry
Montreal law firm wants to launch a class action lawsuit against Fortnite for being addictive to minors
Serious EA data breach exposes 1,600 FIFA 20 accounts
Players, pros, and politicians join in protest over Blizzard’s censorship of Hong Kong Hearthstone pro
Washington man charged with theft of $40,000 of games and equipment from Valve headquarters
Guild Wars 2 studio ArenaNet chased the 2016 Gaile Gray account hacker all the way to Germany – and lost
Blizzard dev says there’s no internal comms over Hong Kong fiasco: ‘It’s pulling our teams apart at the seams’
How Pokemon Go company Niantic is collecting (and using) your life’s data
UK art studio accuses Kickstarted MMORPG Oath of incompetence and failure to pay for work
UK’s children’s commissioner calls for tighter legislation on lootboxes
A gamer was killed after witnessing a robbery whilst playing Pokemon Go
Lawful Neutral: What’s China really worth to the Western gaming industry?
CS:GO stops letting players sell container keys due to their use in money laundering
Australian consumer commission compels ZeniMax and Bethsoft to grant Fallout 76 refunds
US politician shades Blizzard over World of Warcraft toxicity
China is really adding that youth gaming curfew and block on sex and gore in games
Fortnite’s Epic Games cracks down on leakers and banned streamers
Lawful Neutral: When Marvel sued NCsoft over City of Heroes
MMO Business Roundup: Amazon, gaming toxicity research, Blizzard’s court victory, and why people love Mike Morhaime
An MMO character ‘worth’ $1.4M was sold in China for $552
Riot Games will pay $10 million to settle its ‘bro culture’ gender discrimination lawsuit
There’s another Fortnite dance legal battle brewing, this one over Dancing Pumpkin Man
Every other week, Andy McAdams
braves the swarms of buzzwords and esoteric legalese of the genre to bring you Massively OP’s Lawful Neutral
column, an in-depth analysis of the legal and business issues facing MMOs. Have a topic you want to see covered? Shoot him an email