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Posts with tag censorship

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.

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Filed under: WoW Archivist

The Lawbringer: WoW in China


Pop law abounds in The Lawbringer, your weekly dose of WoW, the law, video games and the MMO genre. Running parallel to the games we love and enjoy is a world full of rules, regulations, pitfalls and traps. How about you hang out with us as we discuss some of the more esoteric aspects of the games we love to play?

We've all heard about the now-infamous request for Blizzard and NetEase to remove all forms of skeletons and other material from the Chinese release of Wrath of the Lich King, which finally was released in China on Aug. 31, 2010. What on earth is going on with Blizzard, NetEase, China and all that jazz? This week, The Lawbringer looks at the general video game climate in China, talks a little bit about how things are different for WoW players in China, and helps clarify some of the craziness going on about that whole skeleton debacle.

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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, The Lawbringer

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

[Updated] No Wolpertinger and Pink Elekk quests for Europe

Blizzard has confirmed that the absence of the Catch the Wild Wolpertinger and Pink Elekks on Parade quests on European realms is not a bug. These "get drunk and see creatures" quests were removed to comply with "regional game rating requirements". We can surmise from this that at least one of the European countries is unwilling to allow virtual inebriation in a game partially targeted to teenagers.

We usually think that the U.S. is more prudish about these kinds of non-violent topics than Europe, but obviously that is not the case here. Personally, I think these quests are pretty innocuous and the near blindness you get when you get hammered in-game isn't exactly encouraging young drunkenness. But I do see how some would disagree with me.

We are researching this, but in the meantime, do you know which region(s) are causing the removal of these Brewfest quests from Europe?

Update: Wednesday morning before the restart, many people were able to do these quests. But after the restart, the quests disappeared again as intended. It looks as though those who did the quests were able to keep their tokens.

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Events, Blizzard

Chinese WoW partial relaunch pics, comparison shots of censorship


MMOsite.com has nabbed some pictures of the return to the Chinese World of Warcraft. As you know if you've been paying attention, the game has been offline over there for a few months now, but the game just recently got approved to go back online, and so they're in the middle of a "partial relaunch" (which I believe is taking the form of a closed beta) and the servers are crowding up again. As you can see, there's a stampede (much like ours) going on in Thunder Bluff -- looks like players are happy to be online again.

They also have some comparison images of the censorship found over there. Anything with skulls or bones on it is out, and the offending images have been replaced with piles of dirt and bags and debris. Blood appears as black oil rather than red liquid, and even player corpses are out. As you can see, everywhere players die, there are instead little graves and tombstones around. Very interesting. No idea if this actually "helps" in China (or what the point of the censorship is -- seems as though it's a cultural thing, more like it's a respect for death and dead bodies rather than worrying about whether people will be disturbed by the mention of violence), but of course the government over there has final say on what goes into the game, and apparently this is what they approved. Hopefully Chinese players will be headed back to Northrend before long.

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Events, Odds and ends, Blizzard, Leveling

WoW China hit with more censorship upon relaunch

World of Warcraft is finally getting back up on its feet in China, but it seems that it didn't do so without making some concessions to China's censorship. We know that when The9 was still in charge, they had to make multiple graphical edits to the game to avoid showing off exposed bones, such as altering the Forsaken models and turning player corpses into gravestones, rather than a skeleton heap.

Now that NetEase is in charge, they've had to make some changes to the game as well, though perhaps not as substantial. Potentially funnier, though. According to this Chinese website, severed heads and skulls have been covered up. Literally. Item icons that would show heads or skulls in other regions of the world are now bags, chests and crates in China. This includes things like Van Cleef's Head, and even spell icons like the ones used by Ruin and Improved Corruption have been replaced by bags.

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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Blizzard, News items

Chinese guild heads to Taiwan, kills Mimiron on hard mode


WoW has been in a state of flux in China lately, with the9 failing to gain approval from the government to publish Wrath of the Lich King, which in turn may or may not have lead to Blizzard licensing the operation of WoW in China to Netease instead.

In the midst of all this, it has been the players stuck in the middle, their play availability up in the air, stuck killing Kil'jaedan over and over and over as they wait for Northrend with bated breath. That said, there's still been a few players who have taken matters into their own hands.

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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, News items, Instances, Expansions, Raiding, Bosses, Wrath of the Lich King, Achievements

Chinese release of Wrath of the Lich King still delayed

Around early February, it was reported that Wrath of the Lich King's Chinese release had been delayed. It was suspected that the launch was postponed until after the National People's Congress (NPC) and the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) which occurred in the first week of March, but things are starting to look a little bleak.

There are rumors abounds that Blizzard and The9 are having something of a falling out, but it's being reported that things are going much more poorly on The9's end. Specifically, they've hit some trouble with the censorship board. You might recall that China has some very, very strict rules when it comes to things like video games and movies. Many of the models in the base World of Warcraft game needed to be altered to conform to these rules, such as the exposed bones on the Forsaken and the bones left behind when a player dies.

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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Expansions, Death Knight, Wrath of the Lich King

The Queue: Pandamonium


Welcome back to The Queue, WoW Insider's daily Q&A column where the WoW Insider team answers your questions about the World of Warcraft.

Welcome! You probably noticed I skipped yesterday. Why? Because I felt like it. Yeah, how do you like them apples? I sure showed you! You got owned, y'all.

Uh, anyway. Alexran asked...

Why exactly did Blizzard skip out on the Pandaren as a playable race? I remember hearing something about racism or that the Chinese government would invade Blizzard's HQ. Whats the deal?

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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Wrath of the Lich King, The Queue

All Blizzard forums are again locked


Nethaera just laid the hammer down folks. All of the Blizzard forums have been locked. This means you will not be able to post on them at all. It looks like they will remain locked for the remainder of the day. Quite ungood for those of us that like to use them productively.

They've done this so the community manager can communicate with the community better. They need to get information out quickly, and cannot have the forum system overloaded and explode as it did last night.

This is not the first time we've seen them lock the forums in the past twenty four hours, although I do hope it is the last time.

On a brighter side of things, our comments are not locked! And we don't really subscribe to the 1984 doctrine. Newspeak here I come!

Filed under: Blizzard, Wrath of the Lich King

The9 changes WoW in China to appease censors


Hoping to stay ahead of the Chinese censors, The9 (which handles operation of World of Warcraft in China) has tweaked the visual apperance of the Undead race in the game in hopes of allowing the game to pass the new Chinese censorship review. As anyone who's played the game for long knows, the Undead models are part flesh and part skeleton, with bones sticking out in various places. The9 has modified Undead models to show no skeleton, thus making the race less scary and more likely to pass review. I know plenty of Undead players in the US who would love their toons not to have such a bony appearence -- but as a cosmetic issue rather than an issue of the Undead being scary.

What do you think -- are the Undead just too scary?

[Via Razorwire]

Update: Added an image linked by commenter Zhun.

Filed under: Undead, Odds and ends

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