World of Warcraft’s operator in China, NetEase, has submitted its latest application to run the game’s first expansion, The Burning Crusade, to the General Administration of Press and Publications following months of allegedly “illegal” operation.
WoW was taken offline in China for several months last year following NetEase’s takeover from previous operators, The9. The downtime was due to a delay of approval from the GAPP. Eventually, WoW re-launched in China in September, however, GAPP representatives claimed that no authority had been given and demanded that NetEase cease charging people to play the game, and stop accepting new registrations, or face hefty fines. NetEase did neither.
Around the time that WoW went back online without GAPP’s authority, China’s Ministry of Culture announced that online games do not come under the jurisdiction of GAPP, only the MoC, and that it had the sole right to punish companies running online games.
NetEase then submitted its application for WoW’s second expansion, Wrath of the Lich King, directly to the MoC.
However, today NetEase stopped accepting new registrations for WoW until 14 February and announced that existing gamers will receive three hours of free play each day. This seems to be a compromise of GAPP’s previous demands, which would make sense considering that GAPP also announced today that is has agreed to review Net Ease’s application for its first expansion, The Burning Crusade (the version that’s currently running in China).
Sounds like a mess, but NetEase and Blizzard must be keen to get the issue sorted. China’s WoW players account for a massive proportion of the game’s reported 11 million subscriber base. The fact that Wrath of the Lich King isn’t live over there yet either, over a year after it was released in the west, must also be frustrating.