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Blizzard is finally issuing some damage control.

Earlier this month, the developer angered fans of its popular online game when it closed down a fan-run server — called Nostalrius — that let players experience World of Warcraft as it was before it received any expansions. The nostalgic server was a hit, but Blizzard wouldn’t allow it. Today, after a long silence on the topic, the company explained its action.

“The honest answer is, failure to protect against intellectual property infringement would damage Blizzard’s rights,” World of Warcraft executive producer J. Allen Brack noted on the game’s forums. “This applies to anything that uses WoW’s IP, including unofficial servers. And while we’ve looked into the possibility — there is not a clear legal path to protect Blizzard’s IP and grant an operating license to a pirate server. ”

The next expansion for WoW, Legion, comes out on August 30. It introduces the Demon Hunter class and gives players new zones to explore. At its height in 2010, the game had over 12 million subscribers. That number shrunk to 5.5 million last November. Blizzard has since stopped reporting subscription numbers, but Legion is sure to give the game a boost. However, many players simply want to play an older, simpler version of the game. Brack also explained in his post why Blizzard doesn’t just create its own retro server.

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“We explored options for developing classic servers, and none could be executed without great difficulty,” Brack wrote. “If we could push a button and all of this would be created, we would. However, there are tremendous operational challenges to integrating classic servers, not to mention the ongoing support of multiple live versions for every aspect of WoW. ”

Of course, Blizzard also has a financial incentive to obliterate classic servers, since those playing there wouldn’t need or want to buy new expansions . It would also splinter World of Warcraft’s player base. Yet many fans clearly feel nostalgic for the old World of Warcraft. It launched back in 2004, and years of patches and expansions have drastically changed the game — and some prefer how Azeroth was in the days before The Burning Crusade, Wrath of the Lich King, or the others.

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