Warcraft 3 Classic Owners Are Forced to Download Reforged Instead

Years ago, I bought Warcraft 3 Classic through BattleNet. Now Activision-Blizzard left me with a 30GB impostor.

To say Warcraft 3: Reforged is “a bit of a disappointment” would be a massive understatement. It’s buggy, under-delivers on promises, and forces custom game creators to abandon their intellectual property. Outcries escalated to the point where Blizzard is even offering near-instant refunds on the game.  But when I installed the thing, I didn’t expect to get entirely pushed out of my classic Warcraft 3 experience. Surprise! You can’t even install classic Warcraft 3 anymore — even if you bought the original game.

No, I’m not exaggerating. If you own the original Warcraft 3… Well, you don’t anymore. WC3 classic owners are now forced to download Reforged regardless. According to Blizzard, you can no longer download the classic client anymore, even if you’re a legal user. And you can’t even utilize the Reforged graphics.

Basically, WC3 owners get all the frustrations of Reforged — downloading the big update and being forced into the new client — without the positives of the RTS remaster.

Journey Back to the Frozen Throne…?

Upon the release of Reforged, players on Blizzard forums noticed that WC3 had vanished from their computers. I personally noticed this just a few days ago, when I decided to casually play WC3 classic to actually see what the hype was about.

I’d bought WC3 legally through Activision-Blizzard’s BattleNet client years back to play some custom games with, ironically, some friends I’d met playing Dota 2. (By the way, the world needs more standalone tower defense games like the ones in WC3 and Dota 2.) I had never played much back then, but it wasn’t hard to notice that I could no longer actually download the client.

The first quirk I noticed was that I had no “install” button. The WC3 tab became the Reforged tab. The page urged me to buy Reforged. Okay! Well, I got frustrated, but I’m sure that as a paying customer, I would be allowed some leeway to download the original.

So I went on the Blizzard website, found the downloads page, and picked up the download client. And for a bit, it seemed to work! The WC3 tab started a download, and I breathed a sigh of relief.

Then I peered closely. The download totaled about 26 gigabytes… wait, what?

As it turned out, I was being forced to download Reforged instead of the original game. For the record, part of the appeal of WC3 classic (at least for me) was the relatively small file size. I’m an absolute mess and also bought a 500 GB solid state drive like a cheap-ass. So I’d really rather have a 1.3 GB bundle (according to the original WC3 site) than… this, when I never planned to use it for more than some custom games.

Okay. Next step: I could consult customer service to see if there was any possible way to download the game I actually, like, paid to play. So I sent in a ticket and got this response (name blurred because I’m not shooting the messenger here):

Hold on, let me emphasize the important part here:

[I]nstalling the Classic Warcraft 3 games is also installing the Reforged version. Sadly there is no way to install just the Classic version alone any more.

That explained that. Although I wasn’t happy to see that everything was working as intended.

For the record, I did end up installing Reforged to see what they meant. And all it really does is lock classic owners out of the Reforged graphics and… questionable upgrades.

Declaring that I’m anything but, at the very least, irritated would be too kind to Activision-Blizzard.

Why So Serious?

Reforged carries a whole mess of controversies, like I mentioned before, that might already demotivate people from touching Reforged — even for free.

Firstly, there’s my personal file size dilemma, which is also a question of why is every damn game so big nowadays? Then Reforged doesn’t just inherit old WC3 bugs, but also brings new ones, like getting sneezed on by a roommate with a flu when you have a stomach bug. Blizzard has promised to fix these. Then again, it also promised more dynamic cutscenes than the ones double-dipping players got. And on top of that, custom games made in Warcraft 3 caught a major chilling effect — since the company claims they’re owned by the Activision-Blizzard machine now

More On Activision-Blizzard:

I didn’t pay for a non-upgrade. I paid for a specific piece of software. If what Activision-Blizzard’s customer service said is true, there is no way to own that specific piece of software anymore. I’m sure I accidentally agreed to something in the Terms of Service that permits this, but that doesn’t make it any less frustrating.

The swap between software is one of the many worrying aspects of “games as a service,” or relying on such services to provide us with games. There are consumer concerns like mine, for one. And obviously, WC3’s likely been torrented millions of times, but a situation like this also brings up questions of the importance of archiving games as they become more and more ephemeral.

Given Warcraft 3: Reforged has been picked up by plenty of people who didn’t own the original, this likely isn’t as much of a concern to the majority of Reforged owners. Hell, if Reforged weren’t as much of a public train wreck, maybe I wouldn’t have sought this route at all. But even if that were the case — not to sound like an angry Redditor — but this is definitely a consumer rights concern that shouldn’t be ignored.

Not to mention that sometimes, you just need to dive into a legitimate classic. Too bad one more of those classics has technically vanished.

[DISCLAIMER: Activision-Blizzard is partially owned by Tencent, which owns this very site, Fanbyte. But we’re editorially independent from the game supercorp, so, as always, kiss our ass, Activision-Blizzard.]

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Victoria Rose

Victoria is a Brooklyn-based, chaotic-good former dungeon master and a Contributor-At-Large for Fanbyte. She's a self-proclaimed esports pundit, and used to do Dota 2 news and reporting as a full-time part-time gig. She's also four red pandas stacked in a hoodie. [she/her/hers or they/their/theirs]

11 Comments

  1. I’m using my old pc during lockdown and it can’t even handle the old Warcraft 3 on high graphics. Now my saves are gone and I can’t even open reforged on this pc. I have stared at a stupid lions head for 30 mins and nothing happened. We should have a right to play classic.

  2. so let me se if i get this right…
    the only way for me to now play a game i *OWN* is to download it from piratebay?
    fudge me thats insane. i mean hell, back in the 90’s i used to use cracks to not have to put in the damn cd all the time but this is ridiculus!

  3. so thats it, can you no longer play the custom games on frozen throne? what a shame… im just trying to relive my childhood.

  4. I’m going to put aside the fact that my saves were lost in the sans-reforged update, the fact that I lost saves prior due to corruption all the time lately, or how on at least macOS that you need *both* the old launcher and battle.net app running at the same time to update (practically discovered by accident), and instead point out something more frustrating. 26GB is absurdly massive for a game these days on modern SSDs that are dramatically smaller in space these days by default! I’m not sure any other games are this big, when going through Steam or the App Store. SC and SCII are on a separate hard drive because of this. It is all but impossible to just transfer the data files to an external drive without first uninstalling the game on battle.net for reasons unknown. If you uninstall the now Battle.net connected Warcraft III *without* purchasing reforged, Battle.net then assumes you never had WCIII in the first place. OK … Have backup software, so not an utter disaster. There is a chance that moving the “old” WCII game files prior to battle.net “update” will work … Fingers crossed. I purchased WCIII and Frozen thrown years ago, and really do not want to purchased yet another disappointing “upgrade” *caught* Star Craft *caugh*

  5. It seems like all the old great gaming companies are falling flat lately and/or messing over consumers. Is it really so hard to make a quality product and stand by it?

  6. This is inexcusable by Blizzard. I have been a fan their games for years, but no more will I purchase ANY game from a company who has taken away my purchased right to play the Warcraft 3 Battlechest as I originally bought it. Goodbye Blizzard, and shame on you.

  7. Uhh.. I got my old cd’s out and installed Warcraft 3 ROC and War 3 Frozen Throne and updated and it kept loading Warcraft 3 Reforged. I can’t even get it to load, it just sits at a screen with nothing loading. Glad I didn’t fall for this Scam! What a Joke! I even tried to play World of Warcraft today and made it to lvl 2 before WOW got bugged and char wouldnt move from its spot. WHAT A RIP OFF all of Warcraft now.

  8. Thanks for putting this together. I too am another irate customer who simply wants to play the legacy versions of WC3. This reforged download is a mess. It won’t load for me at all and i have to look at a lions head screen for 10 minutes with nothing happening. ACT-Blizz….YOU SUCK !!!!

  9. this is mess up bc i actually PAID for both games wc3 and ft
    and now blizzard is telling me i can not play it
    this is bull shit

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