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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

YouPlayorWePay under "reconstruction"


This could be the end of the strange story of YouPlayorWePay.com -- or a new beginning. We posted about the site when it first appeared, and even interviewed the founders, but apparently they've decided to make some major adjustments to the site, as it's now down for "reconstruction." A forum post by George Tung says that they are not only redesigning the site, but "re-doing our whole concept." One of our tipsters suggests that Blizzard legal may have gotten involved, but that seems unlikely -- Tung also posts that "when we are done, there will not be any more concerns about our service not being worth or if what we are doing is legal."

So there you have it. We'll have to see what they've got in store for us (though, of course, there's a chance the site may not return at all). Lots of people have had questions and concerns about the concept behind this site from the beginning, and we remain curious to see how this "reconstruction" will answer them.

Thanks to everyone who sent this in!

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Realm Status, Odds and ends, Blizzard, Making money

How much money Blizzard is really making from 10 million subscribers

An article on Playfuls.com (which I found via Incgamers) tried to take the news about Blizzard's ten million subscribers from earlier this week, and suss out just how much money they're making. They do what most people would do, which is multiply their $15 subscription rate per month times ten million, which would mean that Blizzard is raking in $150 million a month, or about $1.7 billion a year is gross profits.

Except that's not right. Because while North American and European players pay about $15 a month, many Chinese and Asian subscribers don't pay monthly-- they pay hourly, at a much lower rate than what other players around the world pay. With 2.5 million and 2 million subscribers in North American and Europe respectively, Blizzard is still making $810 million a year (not to mention the cost to purchase the original game and the expansion pack, which at this point is probably negligible at this point given how much retailers like to take out) in those places. But that leaves 5.5 million players in other countries, and their payment plans aren't as rigidly defined.

Of course, obviously these are all estimates as well, and they're gross, too-- you have to remember that Blizzard pays a huge group of people money to keep up content, customer service, promotion, and administration, as well as maintenance on what must be a huge number of servers (each realm has at least three or four servers running on it, for each continent and all the instances). And Blizzard has other income coming in as well-- licensing fees, fees from The9 (the company that actually runs WoW in China, and likely collects subscription fees there), transfer fees from players, and so on.

Don't get me wrong-- Blizzard is still making a lot of net money on the deal, easily into the hundred millions. But it's not as easily as multiplying what you're paying by ten million, because that's just not the case.

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Blizzard, News items, Economy, Making money

Paying your dues with guild taxes

Now that guild banks are incoming to the game, what's missing from our little virtual economy system? Taxes! That's what Noplat suggests, anyway-- he says that now that guilds have a place to store up their own central banks, the next step is to require payments from guild members for various guild running costs.

I'm not quite sure I agree-- most guilds don't require anything like this. The biggest costs I can think of simply involve raiding repairs, and not only is not every member of every guild involved with raiding, but repair costs aren't that big a deal anyway, especially with daily quests throwing out money for just a few minutes' work. There may be costs coming in the game (guild housing would obviously require a lot of money, and we still haven't been told how siege weapons might work in guild battlegrounds-- will we have to buy those?), but at this point, we don't really need guild taxes or membership fees.

The closest thing my guild ever did to a membership tax is that they ask everyone to pay a few g to any engineer that drops a repair bot during a raid (to cover those costs), but considering how the new instances are set up, I haven't seen a repair bot need to be dropped for a long time anyway. Does your guild need enough money to require membership fees or taxes? And if so, for what? Potions?

Filed under: Guilds, Odds and ends, Raiding, Making money

Poll: Do you use a game card or a credit card?

I'm very interested in seeing the answer to this one-- I have always used a credit card to pay for my account, just because it's all automatically done between Blizzard and my bank, and I don't ever have to worry if my account is all paid up. But I'm sure there are tons of people out there, like popsixx, who play from game card to game card, buying them one after another, or hoarding them up (from gifts or elsewhere), and putting them in when necessary.

For the life of me, though, I can't guess which one would be more popular. There are definitely a lot of kids playing the game, and they'd use game cards for sure. But then again, most of the folks I play with are a little older and financially more stable, and more likely to use credit cards (or PayPal for that matter)

So which is it? Game cards or credit cards? And feel free to tell us in the comments why you do what you do-- maybe there's some huge benefit to using only game cards that I haven't noticed yet.

Credit cards or game cards?
Credit cards are priceless2711 (70.9%)
Game cards keep me in the game1113 (29.1%)

Filed under: Polls, Analysis / Opinion, Fan stuff, Odds and ends, Economy

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