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Posts with tag ministry-of-culture

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: Dispelling the panda myths

Pop law abounds in The Lawbringer, your weekly dose of WoW, the law, video games and the MMO genre. Mathew McCurley takes you through the world running parallel to the games we love and enjoy, 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?

With the announcement of Mists of Pandaria and the inclusion of the Pandaren race in World of Warcraft, the most-asked question that I received was "How is this possible with the laws in China against killing pandas in video games?" The second most-asked question was "How is this possible when Kung Fu Panda will just sue Blizzard?" After I got over the initial hilarity of imagining the actual Jack Black-voiced Kung Fu Panda taking a dude to court, I realized that the myths about China's involvement with pandas in games, as well as what constitutes a real cause of action in terms of copying characters, are finally issues at the forefront of WoW topics.

The Lawbringer is all about pandas today. You might be sick of them, you might love them, or heck, you might be on the panda fence. I can promise you that even if you aren't a Pandaren fan, you just might learn a little something or two from today's all-panda fun. Sit back, relax, get all Zen-like, and let's see what the Pandaren have to offer us.

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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, The Lawbringer, Mists of Pandaria

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

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

China's Ministry of Culture approves WoW content

Blizzard has been having all kinds of issues trying to bring World of Warcraft back online in China, but here's one piece of good news for them: China's Ministry of Culture has gone through the game and approved all of the content in it. They apparently were concerned about some violent content (we know they've already made changes in the past to the Undead models), but that's now been cleared, and the only thing left is final approval by the General Administration of Press and Publication. There's no date on when that might happen, but it seems that will be soon (not soon(tm), just soon).

Blizzard should be extremely happy to see these content checks cleared, as it means that they're not only that much closer to bringing the servers back online, but that they can also finally bring out Wrath of the Lich King there. The whole issue with Netease and The9 backed things up, and then these content checks were a problem, but hopefully most of the obstacles have been cleared by now, and Chinese players can soon start making their way back into the game and up to the snowy shores of Northrend.

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Blizzard, Expansions, Raiding, Wrath of the Lich King

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