Reasons why World of Warcraft Private Servers fail

Before delving into the subject, I want to clarify that this is not an AI-generated article. I'm writing from the perspective of a former World of Warcraft private server owner with over a decade of experience. That being said, based on my personal opinion, here's why most private servers fail within a couple of months of launch.

As you may already know, owning a World Of Warcraft private server is indeed illegal from a copyright perspective. For more information on this subject, you may refer to the following article: "World of Warcraft Private Servers Phenomenon". World of Warcraft private servers originated as a means for players to explore content that was never released to the public, such as hidden zones, NPC equipment, development zones, various creature models, and more.

The ultimate peak period for World of Warcraft private servers was during the Burning Crusade and Wrath of The Lich King expansions. That's when the game managed to captivate a large player base, followed by a decline in gamers' preferences over the years with the release of MOBA games and Battle Royale games.

Famous emulation frameworks like MaNGOS, ArcEmu, TrinityCore, and their derivatives like Eluna, AzerothCore, OregonCore, SkyFireEMU, and CMaNGOS are all open source. This allows anyone with a bit of knowledge in writing LUA and C++ code to build and launch a World Of Warcraft private server in a matter of hours, thus spawning thousands of private servers worldwide. On top servers like xtremetop100, you can find hundreds of thousands of abandoned private server projects over the years. If you've ever wondered why so many servers failed, continue reading this article because there is much to discuss, starting from the less likely to the most common factors that lead to World of Warcraft private server projects being shut down.

With all that being said, here is the list of what I consider reasons why most World of Warcraft Private Servers failed over the years:

Lack of Originality and Profit Seeking

It's not a secret that most private servers were built on leaked sources or repacks, and owners have no clue what is behind that particular server, failing to update and develop the source further. I call these projects "Money Milker Servers". Well-known sources like AMD WoW, WoWBeez, Eternal WoW, and LostArmy WoW were recycled over and over again with different names or attempts to revive those projects, not offering anything in particular but an account and character database wipe repeatedly. These servers usually failed after a couple of months from launch, citing funny reasons like "we were hacked" or "attacked" when the main reason was that players stopped donating, making it unprofitable. These high-stats servers offered an unbalanced single-player experience that faded within a few days after reaching the end-game content. Most owners had no clue how to develop their own scripts, so they just installed whatever they found on emulation forums like OwnedCore or ACWeb. The same stuff could be found on hundreds of other servers.

Owners' hunger for money was usually the main factor that led to servers being closed. Once again, because private servers are illegal, donation services typically depended on PayPal's instant payment notification service, and any reclaim would lead to the balance being put on hold. Most owners withdrew the money right away, having no idea how to build a budget for the server to avoid any losses caused by a PayPal money reclaim. This would lead to the account balance becoming negative and the impossibility of paying the monthly hosting costs for the server.

Server Costs

The costs for medium-sized private servers are substantial. A dedicated server with robust DDoS protection that can accommodate a medium-sized player base may cost over $500/month. The reason you need good DDoS protection is that owning a private server is illegal; you wouldn't risk involving authorities to track and fight against cybernetic attacks. Based on your hosting region, this can lead to many problems, from your hosting contract being terminated to even being charged for illegal activities. Private server owners used to choose to host their servers in the eastern hemisphere, especially Russia, due to obvious legal reasons when it comes to copyright laws. Nowadays, according to Grop100 server localization, a lot of servers are hosted in Europe and USA. Even with the best protection, you are still unsure if your server will be able to mitigate all the attacks. For example, Blizzard's public servers were attacked numerous times, giving developers a hard time mitigating the attacks and reestablishing the servers. These attacks are also giving a hard time to owners, and in the long run, all these events may lead to the inevitable failure of the project.

Low Player Base

Low Player Base

World of Warcraft is a massive multiplayer game, where the content used to revolve around grouping up with other players of similar power levels to defeat and conquer. If a server's player base is low and players are at different levels, this leads to massive waiting times in queues or difficulty in grouping up, causing most players to lose interest in that particular server, making it not worth keeping online. The reason for the low player base is usually due to a lack of advertising or the server itself is not offering anything unique that makes it worth playing. Additionally, vote bots on the top site engines contribute to this issue. High-populated servers typically spend a lot of money on these bot sites to add fake votes for the server, keeping them on the first page of vote sites and acquiring the attention of those who are looking to play on a private server.

In today's World of Warcraft, most players are in their 30s and love the old stuff, while younger folks prefer different game genres like Battle Royale or MOBA. This makes it tough for Blizzard to keep up. They've been trying to make it easier for solo players lately, but this is a huge challenge when it comes to end-game content due to players already reaching the top tier in a matter of days. Some private servers offer solo content in ways Blizzard never thought of offering. Private servers are not made just for playing solo, but it's either too easy or too hard to reach the top tier without spending a lot of money. This can eventually kill off a private server, especially for lacking end-game content.

Trolls

Not trolls as a race, but troll behavior from some players. Without proper community management, a private server was, is, and will always have trolls whose only purpose is to break rules and ruin the fun for everyone. Many times, these entitled players were friends of server owners and always abused their position. They do not follow any rules and often escape punishment. These situations often lead to blackmailing, threats of DDOS attacks, and attempts to reclaim their donations. In most cases, these attempts were successful because owners were required to provide documents for the transactions. This type of player creates hardship for everyone, and their presence on a private server often leads to players leaving and, most of the time, to the server closing forever.

OBSCountdown

Picture by theNouk

Owners Lacking Programming Skills

While documentation is straightforward for each framework, making it easier for everyone to open a private server, owners often lacked development skills to fix various bugs. In fact, not even the retail version is bug-free. These owners only knew how to create items, creatures, and quests in the database, but when it came to source code, they were unable to fix anything, leading to players leaving the server and ultimately to the server being closed.

Blackmailing with Cyber Attacks Known as Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS)

Many servers were closed due to blackmailing. Many Private Server Owners used to be blackmailed for Gamemaster Ranks by various players who were able to use or pay for tools to attack the server with fake traffic, creating high latency and even halting access to the server. Without proper protection against these attacks, it was basically impossible to keep the server alive. The toxicity of those players was ruining the fun for everyone. Even if they got what they wanted in order to stop the attack, their entitlement would lead to players leaving the server because in every case, they used to abuse the powers they received.

Many server owners lacked funds to acquire good protection against DDoS attacks, and it was enough to displease the wrong player for their server to be attacked. These attacks sometimes lasted for days, making it impossible for owners to access anything on the server. With all that frustration and the fact that they couldn't ask for help from authorities to mitigate the attacks, most owners just gave up and closed the project entirely.

The Continuous Expansion of Retail Servers

With all the new game modes released by Blizzard like Classic, SOD, and Hardcore, the Private Servers population was decimated as many players returned to retail to experience the nostalgia of the old days when they woke up on Saturday, grabbed a drink and some snacks, and gathered their buffs for the upcoming raid.

Fear of Possible Charges

Many owners were not aware that owning a private server is an illegal activity. Once they found out about known cases like WoWScape and Nostalrius, they gave up straight away and closed their projects.

My advice for anyone wanting to open a private server is to think twice. Is it worth risking charges from the game developers, especially now that Activision has been bought by Microsoft? Is it worth risking charges from your local financial authorities for not declaring the money you make from donations? If you consider supporting all the costs and not having a donation system, is it worth opening the server now, when the World of Warcraft player base is declining? In my opinion, nowadays it's only worth opening a private server for yourself to explore content that was never released, and nothing else.


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