According to Chinese site Sina, The9 has lost the license to operate the MMO World of Warcraft in China.
A leaked letter from the president of The9, Xiaowei Chen, to The9 employees apparently states that an unnamed domestic operator, who is already running a joint venture with Blizzard, has requested through Blizzard that The9 transfer WoW servers and hardware over to them at a reduced price of $22 million USD, for which The9 paid $73 million USD. An extra $1 million USD will be paid for the transfer of staff who work on WoW.
Rumours over who the unnamed company is all point to one place; NetEase. NetEase already works with Blizzard, last August it was announced that the company, which runs popular web portal, was to take over the operation of other Blizzard games in China including Warcraft III and Starcraft II.
NetEase is expected to announced the news soon, according to Sina via JLM Pacific Epoch. The9’s WoW licence expires on 8 June 2009.