World of Warcraft creator Blizzard Entertainment is set to release a new episode of its online game next month. Its fictional dungeons and battlegrounds are set on the fictional continent of Pandaria.
Pandaria is the answer to our Geo Quiz.
The dark and violent world of Pandaria may (or may not) be fine entertainment but its apparently off limits to users in Iran. Gamers in Teheran have posted complaints in recent days saying they can't access Warcraft's network. This week Blizzard acknowledged that it's responsible for more tightly restricting Iran's access.
The American company says "US trade restrictions and economic sanctions prohibit doing business with residents of certain nations, including Iran."
US sanctions against Iran are aimed at preventing Iran from developing nuclear weapons.
"This is a direct result of U-S sanctions policies and this is an example of how our policies are hurting the wrong people," says Jamal Abdi, who is with the National Iranian American Council in Washington. "Our politices are hurting ordinary Iranians and not the Iranian government whose behavior we're trying to change. It could be something we think is trivial like World of Warcraft but this is a much bigger problem. Every facet of life in Iran is now being impacted by US policies and it's having a negative impact on the Iranian people who are largely our friends."
Iranian blogs are buzzing with speculation that the Iranian government was blocking access to Warcraft due to the corrupting influence of violent entertainment.
Instead Abdi says it turns out that Blizzard Entertainment is just complying with US sanctions:
"If we want to stand with the Iranian people, we need to make sure they can be part of the outside world, and communicate freely instead of making their lives harder, and cutting them off from these communications tools," Abdi says.
Warcraft fans in Cuba, Libya, North Korea, and Syria are in the same boat. US trade sanctions mean they're all restricted from playing in the misty world of Pandaria.