I think we've all spent so much time playing World of Warcraft that we've started to mistake it for an actual country. So when the ruling Blizzard party passes a law banning add-on authors from advertising or soliciting cash donations within the game, we all react as if it is a civil liberties issue.

It's not. WoW is a game, not an economy. Blizzard isn't against gold farmers and powerlevelling services and nagware add-ons because it wants to be the only one to make money from WoW. Blizzard is against them because it wants to protect the image of WoW as a fun game, which ultimately is the best way to protect its own revenue. Blogger sites are predicting the imminent implosion of the add-on community, but the reality is that there are really only two commercially run add-ons affected by this new rule.

The first is Carbonite, an add-on that makes questing easier by telling you where to find things. This has two versions, one paid for by subscription and a lite version that nags you in-game to upgrade to the paid version.

The second is Quest Helper. QH is the most popular add-on in the game, with over 20 million downloads. It does much the same thing as Carbonite but it is paid for with donations. There is a nag message in game to prompt you to donate.

Both add-ons sound as if they are doing the same thing in the same way, with the same commercial motive. But QH is a voluntary project that became a full-time job for its author because it was popular enough for discretely solicited donations to pay the bills, whereas Carbonite was run as a money-making exercise from the start and exhibited a lot of the web sleaziness you see from gold spammers and powerlevellers. In other words, Carbonite is the bathwater and QH is the baby. It's a shame they both had to be thrown out together, but it's hardly the end of WoW add-ons.

I still believe that the game as a whole is improved by the new rules. Virtually all add-ons are free because they are developed by enthusiasts who just want to make the game better. If people only worked on things that directly resulted in financial reward, none of us would have exalted reputations with any faction. Yes, you should be fairly recompensed for your hard work. But programming WoW add-ons isn't work, it's a hobby.

Or at least, it is now.