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Posts with tag china

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The fact that there are still Chinese players who are willing to play an obsolete and no longer maintained version of the game is a little strange to me-- many Chinese players simply started over on Taiwanese servers.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

Blizzard and The9 fined $212,000 for copyright infringement in China

From Worlds in Motion we've learned that Blizzard has suffered yet another setback in China.

As reported by JLM Pacific Epoch, the Beijing Municipal Higher People's Court has found that The9, Blizzard's onetime partner in China violated the copyrights of five Chinese fonts owned by Founder Technology Group. The9, Blizzard, and two other parties have been ordered to pay a fine of RMB 1.45 million, or approximately US$ 212,000. The9 has appealed the order to the People's Supreme Court. (Lovely place by the way. Just watch the steps.)

To recap, Blizzard had licensed World of Warcraft to The9 to distribute the game in China. Apparently, in localizing the game for China, The9 used five fonts for the Chinese text in game. However, these fonts are owned by Founder Technology Group, who sued The9 and Blizzard for copyright infringement in 2007, requesting damages of RMB 100M, or about US$ 13M. In September 2007, when The Burning Crusade was released in China, all of the Founder Technology Group fonts were replaced with fonts that Blizzard had permission to use "as a gesture of goodwill to the gaming community" "without any admission of liability."

Given the rocky relationship between The9 and Blizzard, it is likely that this fine will be yet another bone of contention between the companies and that responsibility for this fine may end up being decided in yet another court battle. Stay tuned!

Filed under: News items, The Lawbringer

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

Activision-Blizzard makes lots of money, no update on Blizzard earnings

Activision-Blizzard has released their third-quarter numbers for the financial year of 2009, and as you might expect for the company in charge of Call of Duty, Guitar Hero, and World of Warcraft, business is brisk. They were expecting to bring in around $700 million, and ended up pulling in around $50 million more than that. It's good, we guess, to be the king.

Blizzard, in particular, laid claim to three of the top five selling PC games in North America on the good side, and on the bad side, Activision acknowledges in the press release that they're happy to have WoW back online in China, but a little worried about the troubles it's seen over there lately.

Strangely enough, there is no information in the earnings about how much money World of Warcraft has pulled in for the company, or any updates about subscriber numbers. Usually, that gets at least a mention, so maybe, with subscribers certainly down in China, Activision-Blizzard wants to keep that under their hat for now.

Read more →

Filed under: Items, Blizzard, News items, Making money

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

Wrath expected in China in mid-November

Because of all the chaos (from switched providers to government approval) on China's version of World of Warcraft, they haven't actually had a chance to release the Wrath expansion over there yet. They were planning to bring it out ASAP, but that obviously never worked out. But we hear now, finally, that the wait is almost over. They are still going through content checks, and Netease (WoW's new provider over there) says it has some more work to do, but at this point they're aiming for a mid-November release.

This doesn't mean much for us in the rest of the world -- and before you commenters mention goldsellers, know that most "Chinese goldfarmers" actually play on NA/EU servers anyway, and have been doing so even with the outage overseas. It does, however, mean that China's guilds and playerbase at large will finally have access to all of the content we've enjoyed for almost a year (the expansion was released in North America and Europe last November 13th -- remember that?), including death knights, the new Naxxramas, and all of the other Northrend content. The release should be a nice bonus for Netease as well -- they've been working hard to try and get the game up to date, and releasing the current expansion should help bring in a nice group of new customers.

Filed under: Patches, Blizzard, Wrath of the Lich King

WoW back online in China


The long wait is finally over -- World of Warcraft's servers are finally back online in China after they went offline all the way back at the beginning of June, due to a switch between former host The9 and current host NetEase. It took a while for the government to approve the move (and some have even suggested that the delay wasn't completely legit), but things are finally back to business as usual, according to a few sources out of China.

A few more interesting facts have arisen with this news as well: apparently NetEase has spent over a million yuan (about $146,000) per day to keep up and maintain the game and its servers during the past month of closed beta and free play. Of course, that includes customer support and all the other costs.

Even with that price, however, the company is still expected to grow. We haven't heard any population numbers worldwide for WoW since this whole deal began, but you have to think that they lost at least a few players due to all of the problems. Of course, the release of Wrath over there may bring back some players, but even though they were planning to have it out before all of this happened, the switchover has delayed it even further. All they need is more government approval, but as the outage proved, that can sometimes be hard to get.

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Realm Status, News items, Wrath of the Lich King, Hardware

Is China's WoW delay politically motivated?


I don't presume to know much about trade policy or international relations, so I'll just pass you this link to a story over on VentureBeat and let you decide for yourself. You probably have already heard that Blizzard has had plenty of trouble trying to bring World of Warcraft back online in China -- they've been waiting on approval from the Chinese government's General Administration of Press and Publication, which has already mandated a few changes to the game. Dean Takahashi at VB suggests that rather than being a technical issue, the delay may actually be political and/or economically motivated: the US and China have been bumping gently lately over exports and imports, and Takahashi suggests that Blizzard's game may have gotten caught in the middle. The GAPP, he says, may be holding the game back, concerned that such a popular foreign game might be released again on their soil.

Fortunately, even Takahashi says it's unsubstantiated -- WoW is likely to go back online in China in a matter of days, and the delays could just as easily have been administrative errors. But I do agree with Takahashi that it's worth watching -- China is cautious about allowing foreign manufacturers to sell to their citizens, and video games are no exception.

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Blizzard, News items, Economy, Wrath of the Lich King

Chinese WoW wraps up closed beta, to start charging soon


It looks like the long saga of World of Warcraft's transfer of operatorship in China is almost finally over -- NetEase has announced that the closed beta period is done with, and that they're just about ready to open up normal registration and bring the game back to for-pay status. They're still pending government approval there, so they're not quite online and running yet, but they have closed off registration to new players, and will only bring it back online when they're ready to start charging yet again. Of course, their pay scheme there is different from here in the US and EU -- they often charge per hour to play rather than a constant monthly subscription. But however they decide to charge, NetEase seems sure that by the end of the month, things will finally be back to normal in China's version of Azeroth.

Meanwhile, the former operator of the game, The9, has announced that they are extending by a month the option for former players to get refunds for their prepaid game cards. That option was originally planned to end on September 7th, but players of the game who have unused cards will have another 30 days to redeem them back for cash. All of this back-and-forth originally started back in April of this year, but it seems like, five months later, the game might finally be getting back to normal.

Filed under: Patches, Realm Status, Blizzard, Hardware

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