When IP blocks makes more sense…
..is for a game company that runs “free-to-play” games.
If the company runs “free-to-play” games then it is likely that the majority of the players will not pay anything or very little and thus only cost the company money. The likely minority of players that pay more will more than make up for that though.
But given that players will be either profitable or non-profitable, more players may not necessarily be good for business. Only profitable players are good for business. Which probably means that certain countries and audiences are more interesting than others, depending on their likeliness to pay.
Proximity of servers may be a factor here also, if the service works better for players they might be more willing to pay for stuff.
Maybe the cost to process payments from different countries is also a factor (assuming that there may be differerences here).
Depending on the business model set up with the developers of a game (if the company is only a publisher), there may also be legal restrictions here since the developers want to sell the game to many different publishers for more profit.
Either way, running a “free-to-play” service will likely cause the companies to be selective about who will play the game, still with appearing to be free and open.
The issues with IP blocking for Chronicles of Spellborn has been my 2nd subscription-based game with such issues. The first one was Horizons back in 2003, which blocked me from playing with some game friends in the US.
I have also experienced this with some of the “free-to-play” games, locking me out even if there is no European version.
Given the background and the current games the publishers for Chronicles of Spellborn are operating (Frogster and Acclaim), it probably makes sense for them to do the same thing they might be doing with other games – they are not used to operate subscription-based games where all players are profitable.
I do not think the Spellborn IP block will go away anytime soon. Unless All publishers and Spellborn N.V. all agree on lifting the block (and likely changing the business agreements) nothing will happen in this area. And they will not do anything unless they all see some bad sales numbers and they come to the conclusion that lifting this would help.
Is this an issue we will be plagued with for all smaller games and games with separate developers and publishers which go the “free-to-play” route? What about companies like NCSoft, Blizzard, SOE, Turbine or EA? Will they put in more measures to try to maximize the ratio of profitable players if they publish “free-to-play” games and what measures would that be?