What are Private Servers?

February 2, 2012

An interesting post that sheds some light on private servers. Edited for general use:

Are they legal?

Private servers, whatever the justification is, are illegal. The logos, imagery, content, translations and game code are intellectual property which require a license for their use, commercial or not. Intellectual property rights are recognized by the laws of virtually every country in the world, with penalties ranging from fines to jail-time depending on the country and severity of the infringement.

Ethically, it is also wrong to freeload on the work of  the developer and its licensees which also develop exclusive content. The creation, development and maintenance of the game requires effort, professional staff and careful organization that don’t come for free.

Criminal Organizations

Private servers profit off the work of professional programmers and artists purely for their own economical benefit. Server files are sometimes sold by corrupt employees in the black market for big sums of money. Behind the naive facade of private servers, often lucrative business are carried, involving hacking , money laundering and tax fraud.

Some private server make claims that they are technically legal because they ask for “donations”. Only charity and non-profit organizations, following strict government guidelines, are authorized to collect donations. A private server collecting “Donations” still falls under the definition of a commercial enterprise.

 Player Rights?

Players have some guidelines and rules to follow when playing official servers. Likewise, legitimate publishers have obligations towards the players- to keep their information secure; give the right to appeal on team decisions; keep the server free of hackers, malicious users and corruption of any kind; keep the server uptime to 99%; and so on. The publisher can’t delete a player’s account for no reason or wipe out the database. If a player decides to stop playing and come back a year later, the player will find their account in the same place, with the same items (assuming they haven’t shared their passwords obviously).

Private servers set their rules for the players, but being illegal, they have no obligation towards the player and can be closed or restarted at any time without prior warning, which happens often.

Balance of Game

Sometimes there is content which will be released at a later stage and when the stage of player progress is adequate. Removal of level cap, new maps, new monsters, new items are prepared for future release. Private servers steal this content and make a mockery of the MMORPG genre with huge experience and drop rates that destroy any challenge in the game, and “special items” -often sold for real money or gifted to friends by corrupted GM- that totally unbalance the game.

Personal Data Security

Private servers are handed by amateurs who have no legal obligation to keep your information secure. Account information can be sold to third parties, or used to access your accounts in other services, and there is nothing you can do against it.

Private servers, often run by rogue elements, can also help in creating botnet armies by installing trojans and rootkits in players computers un-attended. These botnets can then be used for malicious purposes such as conducting Denial of Service (DoS) attacks, data mining such for credit card numbers and accounts user/passwords or entire BOTNETS being sold to underground criminal organizations (Mafia).

Some players may think that the private server scene is just a matter some harmless kids playing. In the most part, yes. But a few servers are managed by adults who have it as their primary source of income. Unlike official servers, they don’t pay any license or tax, sometimes amassing big fortunes. Of course, none of this money invested in private servers by their players, will help the development of the game, as it will only fill the pockets of their owners. Licensed servers pay a royalty to their developers which is invested in the development of new content, thus ensuring the future of the game.


There you have it. A little dark side on private servers.


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