FIGHT: World of Warcraft vs China


It would seem that there is something of an ongoing battle in the world of online Chinese gaming, and World of Warcraft is right in the midst of it.

As I reported back in July, the company behind World of Warcraft (Blizzard Entertainment) was having problems in getting The Burning Crusade expansion pack up and running in China. Best not even mention Wrath of the Lich King then. It's all a little, well a lot, complicated and just a tad political, of course. Here's what I said a few months ago:

"A planned upgrade to the game which involved moving to a new operator in China, an online gaming outfit by the name of NetEase, has been anything but easy. Because it is a foreign game, and the move to a new local operator makes it a new foreign game for good measure, the Chinese government get to put it through a strict approval process."

Now it would seem that the publishing regulator in China has returned that application and halted the approval process as a result. NetEase, meanwhile, has already started operating World of Warcraft in China again despite not having approval. It fired up the local WoW servers back in September, one assumes as it was tired of waiting for that bureaucratic rubber stamp. Remember, WoW had already been approved and had been operating in China previously, all that changed was the local operator. Heck, NetEase apparently even got the nod to go ahead from the Cultural Ministry in China to rev up the WoW servers again.

But that has not appeased the agency concerned with the approval process, the General Administration of Press and Publication (GAPP) and it has now demanded NetEase stop taking money, stop new players from signing up, and in effect just, well, stop. No doubt part of this intransigence stems from the declared intent of GAPP to clean up the online gaming sector and remove violence and pornography from the MMORPG genre (oh how China loves those weapons of mass censorship) but it will be interesting to see how the war is won between commerce, a Government with one eye on foreign investment and an internal agency seemingly struggling to justify its own existence.

About the Author

A freelance technology journalist for 30 years, I have been a Contributing Editor at PC Pro (one of the best selling computer magazines in the UK) for most of them. As well as currently contributing to, The Times and Sunday Times via Raconteur Special Reports, SC Magazine UK, Digital Health, IT Pro and Infosecurity Magazine, I am also something of a prolific author. My last book, Being Virtual: Who You Really are Online, which was published in 2008 as part of the Science Museum TechKnow Series by John Wiley & Sons. I am also the only three times winner (2006, 2008, 2010) of the BT Information Security Journalist of the Year title, and was humbled to be presented with the ‘Enigma Award’ for a ‘lifetime contribution to information security journalism’ in 2011 despite my life being far from over...

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