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Posts with tag NetEase

World of Warcraft subscription fee goes up in China

Playing World of Warcraft in China is a little different than playing World of Warcraft just about anywhere else. In addition to content changes to suit the Chinese government -- like corpses being replaced with gravestones -- the payment method is different. Instead of paying for WoW on a monthly basis, Chinese gamers pay an hourly rate for access.

But starting on October 16th, that rate is getting an increase -- the game's first price change since it launched in the region -- and a pretty sizable one, at that. The new fees are 30¥ (about $5) for 2700 minutes and 15¥ (about $2.50) for 1350 minutes, an increase of 45%. Though those rates may seem low by our standards, it's a big increase for Chinese gamers, who have accounted for more of WoW's recent subscriber drop than gamers elsewhere. A big rate hike doesn't seem likely to help the game hold on to the game's Chinese subscribers, who don't even have this fall's launch of Warlords of Draenor to look forward to.

Filed under: News items

Heroes of the Storm heading to China

Blizzard has a troubled history with releases in China, but that isn't stopping them from bringing Heroes of the Storm to Chinese shores in partnership with NetEase. Currently, NetEase operates three Blizzard titles in China -- World of Warcraft, StarCraft II, and Hearthstone -- as well as Battle.net services. Heroes will face stiff competition from already established MOBA titles like League of Legends, but the popularity of Blizzard characters and properties on Chinese shores definitely suggests the game has star potential.

Heroes is currently in technical alpha, and the announcement gives no hint of a release date, domestic or international. But while waiting for release, interested parties can visit Heroes of the Storm's Chinese website for more info or sign up for the beta on Battle.net.

Filed under: Heroes of the Storm

WoW Archivist: WoW in China, an uncensored history

Official Chinese WoW site
WoW Archivist explores the secrets of World of Warcraft's past. What did the game look like years ago? Who is etched into WoW's history? What secrets does the game still hold?

A few weeks ago, we learned that ten men had been sentenced to two years' imprisonment in China for hacking WoW accounts and selling the stolen gold. It was not the first time that hackers have been punished by the state in China.

The relationship between WoW and China has often been contentious, going back to the early years of the game. While most players there have simply tried to enjoy the game they love, censorship, politics, and illicit activities have all had an impact on their experience.

As we wrap up the Mists of Pandaria expansion, let's not forget that so much of the culture, history, and geography of the expansion was inspired by the real legends and landscapes of China. Today, let's look at the history of WoW in China -- a history as rife with conflict as Pandaria's own.

Pop stars and cola fuel WoW's launch

From the earliest stages, Blizzard had little reason to doubt that WoW would be a hit in China. When the beta signups became available in April 2005, approximately 100,000 people signed up in the first hour. The beta achieved 500,000 concurrent players.

For the Chinese version of WoW, Blizzard partnered with Shanghai-based company The9, who could better handle localization, support, and customer service. The9 launched the classic version of the game on June 7, 2005.

Coca-Cola partnered with The9 to promote the game. For their ads, Coke brought in pop stars such as Taiwanese band S.H.E. (already covered by WoW Archivist), Super Voice Girl winner Li Yuchun, and Olympic gold medalist Liu Xiang. Although -- or perhaps because -- the TV ads broke China's rules against showing game content on TV, the cross-promotion was a huge success.

(As a side note, Pepsi later struck back with a partnership with Guild Wars the following year. Reportedly, Guild Wars' closed beta was delayed a week in China after Coca-Cola complained about The9's deal with their biggest competitor.)

Within the first month, The9 reported 1.5 million active WoW players in China. Although many Chinese citizens had already been playing on Western realms, this was still a huge achievement at the time for a Western MMO in China.

Unlike the West, most gamers in China play in Internet cafes, and MMO subscriptions are almost always handled on an hourly basis. At launch, WoW authorization keys cost 30 yuan and gametime cards were 0.45 yuan per hour. That converts to about $4 for game access and 6 cents per hour.

Like their Western counterparts, China's realms had their share of launch problems. Long queues and lag plagued realms in the East, too. By early 2006, players had grown increasingly dissatisfied with The9 and threatened a boycott. The9 claimed that difficulty with communicating with Blizzard was behind poor realm performance.

Soon enough, poor realm performance would be the least of players' concerns.

Read more →

Filed under: WoW Archivist

Hearthstone heads to China with NetEase

Hearthstone heads to China with NetEase
NetEase is the company who brought World of Warcraft, as well as Starcraft II to the Chinese market. They have worked with Blizzard since 2008, and provide online services including other online games outside their partnership with Blizzard. Their latest announcement, the Wall Street Journal reports, is that Hearthstone will join WoW and Starcraft in NetEase's catalogue of games.

You'll also remember NetEase from their amazing World of Warcraft Mah-Jong set, which WoW Insider featured a little while back. Unfortunately that never made it to the worldwide market, as the special edition of 1,000 was all the sets that were ever made.

Hopefully, Hearthstone will be another great success for NetEase's collaboration with Blizzard, as other CCGs and TCGs enjoy considerable popularity in the market, with fully translated cards for games such as Magic: The Gathering available and national tournaments taking place regularly.

Filed under: Hearthstone Insider

World of Warcraft profits on the rise in China

Sister site Massively reported earlier today that World of Warcraft isn't just doing fine in China, it's doing extremely well. According to Gamasutra, the Chinese WoW operator NetEase just posted its Q3 revenue for the year, and the profits are doing nothing but rising. This is a little surprising given the information from the Activision Blizzard investor call earlier this month, which reported a loss of subscribers, mainly in the east.

Regardless, NetEase posted revenues of 2.0 billion Chinese yuan, up 39.8% -- a substantial number. In China, it seems that World of Warcraft is still a force to be reckoned with, dropping subscriber numbers or not.

Filed under: Blizzard, News items

Wrath of the Lich King: China's version

China is rejoicing at the release of Wrath of the Lich King (finally!), but the game they will be playing looks a little different from the version everyone else is playing now. Chinagame.178.com, a Bejing-based English site for gaming news has posted an interesting article with some screenshots of just what will be changing in Wrath. Included are shots of the before and after purging of skulls from various items in the game, as well as some surprising model changes.

The censorship issue isn't exactly a new one -- changes have been made to the game dating all the way back to when The9 was handling the property. But it's still interesting to see exactly how an expansion like Wrath, which is centered around a storyline involving the Lich King, master of the undead, has been adapted to make it suitable according to China's requirements. It does make me wonder though -- what's Icecrown Citadel and the final fight against the Lich King himself going to look like? Is China going to miss out on Marrowgar's bonestorms? Check out the full article for screenshots and commentary.

[Thanks, Gabriel!]

Filed under: News items, Wrath of the Lich King

NetEase loses WoW director, Li Riqiang



World of Warcraft
in China continues to walk a rocky path. NetEase, the company currently licensed to operate WoW's The Burning Crusade expansion in China, lost Li Riqiang, a senior director for the WoW business unit on the 24th of February, 2010. There is no word on why he left, and the company is keeping mum on details about the departure and his replacement.

This comes on the heels of a 62% jump in revenue in the fourth quarter of 2009 generated since NetEase was able to light up the TBC servers after resolving their disputes with the government, which had prevented them from launching the service in China until September 2009. That revenue increase was accompanied by lower profit margins, however, as NetEase must pay hefty licensing fees to Activision Blizzard.

The fact that there are still Chinese players who are willing to play an obsolete and no longer maintained version of the game is a little strange to me-- many Chinese players simply started over on Taiwanese servers. Judging by the amount of red tape that's being wrapped around anything to do with Blizzard, I suspect we'll see Cataclysm released before Chinese players can play Wrath of the Lich King without connecting to a server in Taiwan.

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, News items, The Burning Crusade

Burning Crusade approved in China

NetEase is finally approved to release the Burning Crusade in China, which probably means that they are accepting new accounts again. This is months after being caught in the crossfire between the quarreling GAPP (General Administration of Press and Publications) and MoC (Ministry of Culture) over NetEase's rights to operate WoW at all.

Now that they are only one expansion behind and with Cataclysm set for the latter half of this year, this gives NetEase time to get Wrath of the Lich King approved before they fall behind yet another expansion. In the meantime, many Chinese players have turned to Taiwanese servers to get their Northrend fix.

Filed under: Blizzard, News items

No new WoW accounts in China

Reuters reports that Netease, the company that operates WoW in China, has stopped accepting new accounts and has reapplied to GAPP (General Administration of Press and Publication) for permission to release The Burning Crusade. The article does not mention if this was voluntary, or if this was part of the ruling that was scheduled to be handed down in January.

For those unfamiliar with this story, Netease was told to cease WoW operations last year by GAPP and the Chinese Ministry of Culture stepped in and contradicted the ruling. Netease has continued taking new accounts until now, while waiting for the decision of these governmental bodies. Assuming Netease can finally get approval to release The Burning Crusade, they will still need to apply for permission to release Wrath of the Lich King. At this rate, the rest of the world will get Cataclysm before mainland China sees Northrend.

The timing of this is unfortunate, considering that Lunar Festival begins next week. Lunar Festival is based on Chinese New Year.

We'll keep you posted as this seemingly never-ending drama continues.

[via Joystiq]

Filed under: News items

Punishment for NetEase coming this month in China

JLM Pacific Epoch reported last week that an agreement has been reached regarding NetEase and that punishment will be announced this month. The two government agencies fighting over whether or not NetEase engaged in illegal activities have agreed that by charging fees before full approval, NetEase is guilty of acting against regulations. The disagreement began when the General Administration of Press and Publications halted their review of the game in November 2009, but were opposed by the Ministry of Culture in their decision.

This announcement raises so many questions for WoW in China. Will NetEase be allowed to resume operations of WoW? If not, will Blizzard be able to find yet another replacement? Or will China continue to block all attempts for playing World of Warcraft, continuing their efforts to not be influenced by western culture?

Many Chinese players are still hanging out in Azeroth via Taiwanese servers, of course. This includes the famous Chinese guild Stars, which was also WoW.com's August Guild of the Month winner. If commercial operations of WoW return to China, Wrath of the Lich King has yet to be released there. So many players who have defected to Taiwanese servers are not likely to return until after the Chinese servers catch up with the rest of the world. We'll keep you up to date on the situation as it unfolds.

[Via GamePolitics.com]

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, News items

WoW.com's top ten stories of 2009

What a year it's been for the World of Warcraft. We've had three big content patches, a BlizzCon, an expansion announcement, and perhaps out of all of the five years this game has been running, this was the year with the most surprises. A few things players thought would never happen (including faction changes) finally did, and we saw quite a few new tricks from Blizzard, both in terms of game features and in the way they run the game at large. 2009 was also a year of expectation: we thrilled to leaks and rumors about Cataclysm, and all year long, we looked forward to the villian that has been set up for us ever since 2008's Wrath release: the Lich King himself.

As we've done for the past couple of years, let's take a look back at the most popular stories of 2009 here on WoW.com. We'll start first with number 10, which also came as a surprise to many players, right after the break.

Read more →

Filed under: Patches, Fan stuff, Blizzard, Instances, Leveling, BlizzCon, Wrath of the Lich King, Cataclysm

Joystiq talks to Frank Pearce about the past and future of Warcraft

Our friend Kevin Kelly over at the Joystiq mothership got a chance to talk to Frank Pearce at Blizzard about the Warcraft anniversary, and he did us proud. Not only did Frank Pearce do some nice reminiscing about Blizzard, where they've come from, and how the massive World of Warcraft undertaking has changed them as a company (they've gone from 500 employees to about 4,000 in just the last five years), but he also touched on some issues we've really been wondering about over here at WoW.com as well.

Like, say, the reason we haven't seen a girl in the ads yet. Pearce says they're open to it, and he wants some names submitted, so we'll offer up Felicia Day as a no-brainer, and if you guys have other ideas, share away below. He also talks about server capacity, and says that at nearly every step, Blizzard has been surprised by their success. He attributes race and faction changes to thinking that realms were big enough on day one to bring everybody together who wanted to come together, but they later realized that wasn't what was happening. He mentions China and NetEase and says they wish the process there was faster. And finally, he talks, surprisingly, about the BlizzCon Vegas that wasn't, and seems to confirm that Blizzard was considering a Vegas show. Interesting. Where else did they consider holding the convention, we wonder?

Filed under: Blizzard, Interviews, Cataclysm

The 9 revenues drop by 94% after losing WoW

Former World of Warcraft distributor in China The9 recently reported on their third quarter revenues which showed a massive 94% drop Year Over Year. Their revenues were posted at $3.7 million, a significant drop from their second quarter revenue which was pegged at $42.2 million (while they still held the license). Last year, The9 reported revenues of $59.8 million.

Although The 9 downplays the loss, pointing to notable growth in their other licenses, such as FIFA Online 2 and Granado Espada, the impact of losing the publishing rights to Blizzard's phenomenal MMOG was more than apparent. World of Warcraft has a tumultuous history in China, with The9 losing the rights to rival Netease back in June, with rumors swirling about the change as early as April of this year.

World of Warcraft is currently in the middle of a power struggle between two Chinese government agencies, resulting in the suspension of the game. Players in mainland China have reportedly not had access to the game in months and there were numerous delays to the Wrath of the Lich King expansion, putting the future of World of Warcraft in the country, as well as its potential millions of dollars in profits, in question.

[via Massively]

Filed under: Blizzard, News items, Economy

NYT: GAPP and Ministry of Culture clashing over Chinese WoW regulation

The New York Times has brought its journalistic bear to the story earlier this week about China deciding not to approve WoW's release over there under new service provider Netease, and it seems what we thought was confusion between two agencies has turned into a war. On one side, you have the General Administration of Press and Publication (GAPP), who earlier this week said that Netease (WoW's local provider of Blizzard's game in China) could not legally be collecting subscriptions on a game that GAPP hadn't yet approved. But on the other side is the Ministry of Culture, who did approve WoW's content when it was run by The9, and are now saying that GAPP "overstepped its authority" by thinking it could "penalize online gaming" at all.

Which means that the silly game of World of Warcraft has fallen smack dab in between two government agencies lobbying for power. In the past, says the NYT, GAPP has approved games pre-release, and the Ministry of Culture has overseen games once they've started running online. But WoW is a weird exception (it has been online for a few years already, and only went offline when Blizzard switched providers), and it looks like both agencies are grabbing for power and the sizable fees that come along with regulation. If they continue to clash, it'll be up to the State Council, China's cabinet, to determine who's in charge. And the NYT says if that happens, the Ministry of Culture has the edge, with lots of friends in the cabinet already.

Meanwhile, Netease hasn't taken the game offline yet, apparently -- they still haven't been given official notice to do so. There's no word on how long this will take to shake out, but even China's players are tired of the fighting; they just want to get back into Azeroth and play.

Thanks to everyone who sent this in!

Filed under: Realm Status, News items, Economy

China's GAPP halts WoW review, calls collecting subscriptions "illegal behavior"

Just when NetEase was finally getting back to business in China (they were even planning for a Wrath release next month), they hit a huge snag: China's General Administration of Press and Publications (GAPP) office has apparently halted their review of the game and told the company to stop collecting subscriptions and signing up new subscribers. They've also passed on the company's application to go into business, and have called the new subscription signups "illegal behavior," threatening even suspension of the company's Internet service.

We're not sure what happens from here -- an official from the country's Ministry of Culture has also said that the suspension of the review is "not appropriate," especially since the content under review had already been approved while the game was being run by The9, which may mean that it will be overturned just as quickly as it went down (and the game will be back in business before long). On the other hand, Netease may have jumped the gun -- they've been collecting subscriptions for a while, which they apparently weren't supposed to do without official GAPP approval (and we've heard before that GAPP might just want to delay the release of foreign games as long as possible). We'll keep an eye on the issue -- most analysts are saying that despite the threats, this is just another roadbump for NetEase, and they should still be back to collecting payments for the game soon.

Update: Stranger and stranger -- NetEase has released a statement saying they've gotten no official word from GAPP outside of the official press release. When you consider that along with the Ministry of Culture's comments, it seems that the government isn't quite sure whether they're approving the content or not.

Filed under: Realm News, Patches, News items, Expansions, The Burning Crusade

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