While piracy in MMO gaming isn't as prevalent as in other video game markets, Activision-Blizzard and other publishers remain aggressive in their hunt for operators of rogue, "private servers." Last week World of Warcraft publisher Blizzard made headlines across the blogosphere after the company was awarded more than $88 million in damages in federal court; the complaint was originally filed in October 2009, alleging Alyson Reeves—the defendant and operator of a popular "Scapegaming" private server—broke the company's EULA by hosting the illegal server and selling in-game items for real money via PayPal.
The recent lawsuit is one of the most extreme cases of piracy in the MMO industry; Scapegaming hosted 427,393 total users, with 32,000 to 40,000 players online each day, according to the court order [via THR, Esq.]. But is piracy in MMOs a widespread problem for most of today's publishers? Or is online gaming, by nature, more prohibitive to "digital theft" than traditional video games? Some publishers are taking cues from the cloud-based nature of online gaming, adopting new forms of digital rights management (DRM) for single-player or "offline" games that rely on users' Internet connections to constantly validate their usage rights.