Telstra the problem, claims Blizzard on Aussie servers


Video gaming giant Blizzard Entertainment has reportedly labelled Telstra as the biggest roadblock in its way to setting up dedicated Australian servers for its popular World of Warcraft and StarCraft II games.

Blizzard is one of the world’s largest video game manufacturers, operating ongoing franchises such as World of Warcraft, StarCraft and Diablo that have attracted Australian fans in the millions. However, the company has long faced criticism from its local audience due to its reluctance to set up Australian servers for its games.

The lack of such servers mean that Australians playing Blizzard games are forced to connect to servers overseas, slowing down network latency in a phenomenon commonly known as ‘bad ping times’. Blizzard has repeatedly stated that it is looking into the Australian situation, but at least one ISP – iiNet – has already taken matters into its own hands, updating its network routing tables in an effort to ensure its customers get the best experience.

“The biggest problem right now is the number one ISP in Australia,” said World of Warcraft production director J. Allen Brack at Blizzard’s BlizzCon conference in the US over the weekend, responding to a question from local site AusGamers.

Brack reportedly said Blizzard’s main difficulty with the ISP – Telstra – was that any traffic routed outside of Australia by the telco had to go through its fibre connection to San Diego. He appeared to imply this created headaches for players connecting to Blizzard’s new regional datacentre in Singapore.

The developer noted he felt bad for Australian players, and said the issue was something he had met with Blizzard’s IT staff two weeks ago to discuss.

The news comes six months after Brack made similar comments in April, saying the Australian situation was something that was discussed within Blizzard on a regular basis. In addition, it comes just several months after Blizzard – reversed the unpopular decision to block Australian StarCraft II players from playing on US servers.

The company had been facing a wave of dissent from Australian players furious about its original decision to block local gamers from playing against their friends overseas by locking them into playing through a new server in Singapore set up to serve the South-East Asian region as a whole.

National broadband player Internode has discussed the need for an Australian World of Warcraft server with iconic game publisher Blizzard “for many years”, the company’s managing director Simon Hackett said in April. However the talks have gotten nowhere.

Telstra has been invited by email to comment on the issue.

Image credit: Screenshot of a StarCraft II beta match between WhiteRa and The Little One, as commented by Husky and HD


  1. Personally I am tired of Brack’s constant statements over the past year that Blizzard is looking into this issue. How hard can it be? Just get it done! Blizzard makes mega-dollars from World of Warcraft and is undoubtedly doing the same from Starcraft. The least it could do is provide Australians with the same level of network infrastructure support which those in the US and Europe get.

  2. Agree.

    What a crock their argument is. Just get some rack space from an Australian co-lo mob and put an end to it.

    The biggest problem/fail is idiots in North American companies who look at a geographic map, rather than network topological one, to work out where to put DCs. Salesforce is no better. They put our instance in Singapore and as I do a traceroute from our Internode connection the data goes from here, to Sydney, Narita Japan then Singapore … for 15ms more than just going to in the USA. WTH!

    When you’re making money in the billions out of something like WoW and Starcraft, there is really no excuse for not running servers in Australia – especially when you have Game Arena, Internode IGN, etc all being ISPs and doing really good jobs of running local gaming communities.

    • I agree, and it’s increasingly becoming an issue in enterprise IT as well. You just need to follow events in that area for a short time to realise that Australian chief information officers and IT managers want their data held in Australia. I don’t know why this is so hard for the large multinationals to understand! Potentially they just don’t think Australia is worth customising for in terms of revenue.

      • You are correct. At the recent Freeplay independent Games Festival in Melbourne, one of the speakers on Collective Commons told the story of how he wanted to make his library of sounds free, but with a limited number of downloads per day and an option to buy the whole library as it currently has.

        The company profiting from the sounds would not let him get anywhere, when he asked if he could just do it in his home country of Australia, he was told to go right ahead and that there was no problem with it.

        The implication is Australia is a marketplace not worth worrying about, we have 20 million people which is nothing compared to the 300 million in the US, similar size in the EU and the large blocks of Asian countries dwarf those numbers.

        If they knew it would get them more subscribers as some other companies do, they probably would do a cost-benefit analysis. My guess is this has been run and there’s simply not enough justification for anything more than the current Oceanic Servers in WoW and the ability to connect to the US in Starcraft II.

        A good example of a company which has worked out the value of underserved markets such as Australia is Runewaker Entertainment’s Runes of Magic, a decent free-to-play MMORPG with many, many similarities to WoW. Not only have they opened new Australian Servers, but they have locally hosted the game client and reduced its download to half to help Australians with their low Data Cap limits. I think these are great initiatives and while I’ll probably keep playing WoW, it made me willing to give Runes of Magic a chance, which is no doubt what they wanted.

        Blizzard doesn’t have to care, people will play WoW or not, regardless, so nothing will really change. Aside from that, if the issue really is Telstra, it’s hardly likely to change any time soon from the Australian side.

  3. The problem here doesn’t sound like Telstra at all, it sounds like Blizzard doesn’t want to set up Australian Servers and would prefer Telstra (or any other ISP) instead to route all WoW/Starcraft traffic directly to Singapore. Maybe if Blizzard actually set up some local servers this problem wouldn’t exist.

  4. The problem is simple. Cost of bandwith and rack space in australia is stupidly expensive. Telstra will try and charge you more than a house costs just for some rack space for a year. When companies look at hosting in australia, they see singapore just “next door” and see that their prices are bou 1-10% of australias prices and make the economic decision to host there instead. Until Australia (read telstra) starts charging some sane prices nothing will change. Also i happen to know GA has been in talks with blizzard before about getting WOW server, but Blizzard want full administrative contol over the boxes and telstra wont let that afaik.

    • A couple of years ago the cost of 42U rack from Telstra with 100mbps Internet tail (no data, I know – but their data is pretty cheap *in bulk*) was around $1700 a month – that that was my idiot-off-the-street price. Not that you would probably colo WoW with them anyway.

      I’ll agree that an open 100mbps pipe in Australia is not as cheap as Singapore etc – but it is also nowhere near the ‘cost of a house’ as you suggest – and the price is falling all the time.

      I really think the problem is one of execs in US companies not ‘getting’ the Internet. Geographically close != low ping times – end of story. Also, international routing is going to change all the time based on where your ISP is buying international transit from, link failures and so on. If you’re hosting it off-shore from your players then they are going to get a crappy and inconsistent experience.

      • Theres more than just the pipe and physical space you would need to worry about. Being hosted remote from their own datacenters they would probably want to get hosted backups and hosted san from the provider so they dont have to worry about changing tapes and replacing drives on equipment that is on the other side of the country. And T’s pricing on thoes servers is unbeliveable. (hosted backups is in the range of $1000 per gb per year on daily backups)

        And other than telstra there is not much quality well connected datacenters in australia i am aware of.

        • What are you talking about? There are heaps of well connected datacentres across the country.

          Brisbane: PIPE DC1, 2 & 3. Fujitsu, Interactive, HostNetworks, Telstra Woolloongabba
          Sydney: Globalswitch, Equinix, Pegasus Alexandra, SIS, Telstra Paddington/Pitt Street
          Melbourne: Primus, Pegasus Melbourne, GlobalCentre, Telstra Exhibition
          Adelaide: Net Niche, HostWorks/IBM, Internode
          Perth: MetroIX, QV1, Amcom
          Darwin: Secure Data Centre, Telstra Palmerston, Amcom

      • Here is a quote form Heros of Newerth operators about the cost of hosting in australia:

        “Why there are no AU servers for HoN?
        We have received some initial prices on hosting boxes in Australia:

        Our boxes on average use 4,000-5,000 GB of data transfer a month, we get these boxes for roughly $200 USD each in EU/USA

        Provider 1: $1250 per month for hardware, $11,250.00 per month for bandwidth per box, box would support 110 concurrent users

        Provider 2: $1100 per month for hardware, $22,500 per month for bandwidth per box, would support about 220 concurrent users.”

        • Primus have donated a server and all required Bandwidth to HON. I think Blizzard know who to call, should they actually care.

      • $1,700 per month is bang-on the cost of a moderate house. Mind you, that’s a 20-odd year commitment, not if it’s just for a year as Damien put it.

        And Telstra’s 100Mb tail to the Internet, as part of it’s Co-Location Rack bundle, is a shared service. We don’t get anywhere near 100Mb download speeds on ours. I don’t know how much a 100Mb dedicated connection would be, but I’d say it’d raise the stakes a fair amount.

        • Please let me know how you managed to get un-metered dedicated 100mb out of telstra for $1700? I can also bet a realm cluster needs alot more than 100mbit. That $1700 per month in a telstra colo will not include a single byte of data transfer.

  5. This is terrible reporting.

    “Blizzard dont have a server in Australia because Telstra route international traffic to san deigo”. How does that even make sense? On top of that isn’t international traffic routed via BGP advertisements? So wouldn’t that mean that blizzard is advertising its network poorly?

    “We have sent an email to Telstra to comment on why blizzard dont have a server in Australia because you send traffic to San Deigo due to Blizzards advertisements”. How is Telstra suppose to respond to that? This is 100% a blizzard decision to make, they have sufficient player base to build a server farm in Australia. They choose not to and blame it on others.

    • I agree 100% — however I simply reported what Ausgamers reported Blizzard as saying. Whether or not what they said was dumb is not up to me.

  6. Monopoly player Telstra is the issue. Owning as much as they do, until recently, they have just not had to contemplate competing. Having seen the pricing and terms that T offered to anyone wanting to host any realistic traffic, I can say I’d rather piss off a small portion of my clientele than spend more per year than I would buying a house.

    • To be honest I don’t agree with that. If you’re a company the size of Blizzard, you can at least force a deal with a company the size of Telstra that will leave both parties coming out equal.

      • Or just put the servers in any of the telco neutral colo facilities around the country and peer with a number of ISPs. That would give their customers the best possible experience.

  7. here’s a crazy idea.. set up an actual AUSTRALIAN server and there wont be the issue of international links, lol.

  8. To use the standard opening from WOW whingers:
    If you are a company the size of Blizzard making mega bucks…. why on earth would you cut into your bottom line by hosting services in Australia? If people are actually unhappy with the service, then they’ll stop playing/paying. Until then, there’s no need to change.
    I can’t imagine they’re attracting too many new users to such an old game: therefore, they’ve probably reached market saturation. The only thing that will improve Blizzards services to Australia is if people stop paying their monthly subscriptions.

    • It’s not just World of Warcraft — it’s also StarCraft II (which I play a lot) and I’m sure it will continue to be an issue with the upcoming Diablo III — plus whatever secret MMO project Blizzard is working on next.

      • “it’s also StarCraft II (which I play a lot)”

        Though not at the moment. I recall you saying it had been deleted from your computer. Or have you reinstalled it already? :)

  9. I heard a rumour a while ago, would like to know if it is true or not.
    I read this on a forum so it must be true basicly it goes like this:

    Internode approached blizzard offing to set-up an Australian based WoW server at no cost for blizzard at all all they wanted was assistance in managing and running the server and the permission to advertise them selves as the official Australian hosts of WoW.
    Now apparently this deal was knocked back by blizzard.

    anyone else heard of this rumour?

    • I’ve heard the rumour, but while I know Internode has bent over backwards to negotiate with Blizzard, I have never seen official details of those negotiations.

  10. The problem has always been with Blizzard’s unrealistic demands. They required (at least back in 2007) physical access to the servers with NO-ONE else having access. Neither Telstra nor Internode are willing to agree to those terms as the cost to isolate blizzards farm starts becoming quite expensive.
    Short of building a separate datacenter, this is never going to get resolved unless Blizzard relax their restrictions.

    • I mean I can see that these things would need to be protected … but why couldn’t Blizzard have one or two employees in Australia to monitor physical access? Hosted in the right datacentre with the right level of security, it shouldn’t be a problem. I mean FFS for a company like Blizzard, it’s not like it can’t afford a few staff. It already has an office here.

    • “Here’s the key to your rack(s) Blizzard”.
      Not particularly unreasonable (very sensible actually), and not particularly unusual (typical of any DC with lockable racks).

      • We have highly secure datacentres in Australia, with top-grade physical and electronic security. It’s hard to imagine what Blizzard would need that other sensitive corporations like banks and law firms wouldn’t.

        • I agree with you on most points but I’ve been involved in a few banks data centres and I’ve never seen one that’s been co-located. Generally you’d also have two sites for disaster recovery.

          So I can see why requirements like physical security, bandwidth and I’m assuming large numbers of servers would be expensive. Still one Diablo III is released (plus mystery project?) and we have 3 games running maybe the business case will improve.

          The problem is that Warcraft and SC2 both work ok (not great) as is, so you can’t tell me even 10% more people would sign up if it was locally hosted. And 10% of Aus/NZ Wow players = not much.

          Maybe when Call of Duty goes MMO (like Bobby wants) we’ll need to have much better latency servers :)

  11. Looking at this map
    it is clear that west coast players benifit from a Singaporean server, while the east coast benifit from US servers.

    This is because east cost cables go via USA or Japan, and actually loop back to singapore. Singapore is close pipewise via the Indonesian/PNG links and direct links.

    Part of the issue is that each pipe goes over the infamous “ring of Fire” tectonic plates,

    If Blizard wanted to put in a local aisian co-lo, Japan makes more sense pipe wise, but I would wager that they would be more expensive than Singapore.

    • It’s not so much where the cables go, as the routing. You can live in Perth and still have your connection routed through the US — this is the sort of thing iiNet was seeking to change with its recent StarCraft II changes. Very often, IP is not designed to get there as fast as possible — it’s designed by local ISPs to get places as cheaply as possible while still having acceptable latency.

      But for online gaming, “acceptable latency” is a fluid term.

  12. Who cares if Telstra route all their international traffic to San Diego? If we had a Singapore WoW server then people who wanted low pings would just move to a different ISP. Telstra would have to capitulate at some point if they wanted to not lose customers due to this.

    • if all of telstras wow playing custmers left the ISP they would lose less than 1% of their revenue stream. I dont think they would change their routing for that…

  13. Internode offered to partner with Blizzard five years ago to set up dedicated WoW servers but Blizzard blatantly refused. Blizzard has caused these problems and their weak excuses deflecting criticism to Telstra does not hold water given how much money they make out of WoW and the StarCraft franchise.

  14. So if Australia is so expensive, why not put in a data centre in Hong Kong and have it connect directly with Reach? At least Hong Kong is a bit cheaper than Australia and Telstra route most of their traffic through HK.

  15. It appears it was Optus and NOT Telstra that AusGamers were talking about..

    Update: Turns out Brack was referring to Optus as our “number one ISP” which means his comments about San Diego now make sense, but it also means they need to be informed a little more about the actual ISP situation in Australia, because Optus would really only represent a small part of our overall service.

  16. So, Blizzard’s solution for Australia is that we must spend billions of dollars to build a new cable to Singapore because Blizzard doesn’t want us connecting to the US servers at the other end of the existing fiber link?

  17. All I know is I got an Australian hosted Warhammer Online server and an Australian hosted SWToR server. If these guys can provide me with that luxury, why can’t Blizzard? Poor form imo.

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