World of Warcraft
(Photo: Reuters)

Strict US sanctions have been firmly set in stone for countries such as Iran, in order to prevent the potential funding of terrorism, nuclear armament programmes and, erm, World of Warcraft (WoW) players.

Yes, you heard that right.

Over the last week, Iranian players of the massive multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG), which already boasts around 10m subscribers worldwide, cried for help on gaming forums, saying they were unable to access the game or their accounts.

But it wasn't a server crash, nor was it a scheduled lock-out to update services. It was something more sinister.

According to employees of Blizzard, the company which owns World of Warcraft, the company decided to cease all interaction with its Iranian subscriber base, in fear of breaching US sanction laws.

The statement read:

"Our team has been watching this thread closely, and we understand the desire for more information about this situation. Blizzard Entertainment cannot speak to any reports surrounding the Iranian government restricting games from its citizens.

"What we can tell you is that United States trade restrictions and economic sanction laws prohibit Blizzard from doing business with residents of certain nations, including Iran. Several of you have seen and cited the text in the Terms of Use which relate to these government-imposed sanctions. This week, Blizzard tightened up its procedures to ensure compliance with these laws, and players connecting from the affected nations are restricted from access to Blizzard games and services.

Well at least Iranian subscribers can get their money back, right?

"This also prevents us from providing any refunds, credits, transfers, or other service options to accounts in these countries. We apologise for any inconvenience this causes and will happily lift these restrictions as soon as US law allows."


While I can't imagine Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, president of Iran, trying to level up a night elf druid (I'd like to think he would actually play Alliance), Blizzard are apparently rather scared of falling foul of US law by receiving $10 monthly payments from Iranian nerds.

Although current events is somewhat amusing and conjures up images of Ahmadinejad and party officials huddled round in a LAN party demanding buffers and leading a raid, it is not surprising that Blizzard have taken drastic measures.

Iran and US sanction laws are one of the hottest topics this summer.

Scores of banks and financial firms are currently under investigation for allegedly breaching US sanction laws by transacting with Iranian institutions and individuals. Some companies are in hot water for not just exchanging transactions with these entities but by not "sufficiently" disclosing restricted trading activity and client names.

While banks such as HSBC and Standard Chartered have settled with US regulators for multi-millions of dollars worth of fines, it is enough to scare of any company that would have the word "Iran" pop up in company earning statements. For instance, HSBC has set aside $700m in potential charges with regulators, following its alleged breach of US sanctions with terrorists and drug cartels from Iran and Mexico.

Geek Speak did try to get in touch with a Blizzard representative for further comment, but has yet to hear a response.

Lianna Brinded is senior business writer at IBTimes UK