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 World Of Warcraft  Restarts Commercial Operation In China
World Of Warcraft Restarts Commercial Operation In China
September 21, 2009 | By Leigh Alexander

September 21, 2009 | By Leigh Alexander
More: Console/PC

After over two months' downtime and a long closed beta, World of Warcraft has finally resumed full operations in China over the weekend, opening the doors of Azeroth once again to millions of users who've been waiting since the beginning of Summer.

Blizzard Entertainment switched Chinese operators on June 7th from The9 to rival NetEase, hoping to earn a higher royalty rate on the game. But the change-over has meant a lasting round of scrutiny from government regulators -- and mandated content edits, due primarily to sensitivity about depicting the undead before younger audiences.

A translated version of the official announcement said users will still be able to use any game time they purchased prior to the downtime, and veteran players meeting certain criteria will get a special pet.

As it welcomes back returning users, the game's official Chinese website is also now officially open for the creation of new World of Warcraft and service accounts.

The transition and the downtime have been costly to both Blizzard and NetEase. According to media claims, NetEase has spent an estimated 1 million yuan ($146,455.77) per day maintaining game servers for the closed beta it's been running since July 30 as a test period.

Harder to quantify is potential player loss as a result of the downtime. Close to half of World of Warcraft's 11.5 million users are Chinese -- but analysts such as Lazard's Colin Sebastian have estimated that, due to the Chinese business model and licensing structure, the region accounts for just 6 percent of WoW revenues.

Interestingly, Netease and Blizzard's relaunching of the service appears to be tied to a change in Chinese government responsibilities announced late last week, with the Ministry Of Culture taking over some game-related approval processes. However, post-launch reports claim that not all Government departments are aware of the game's relaunch -- though it is unclear whether jurisdictional issues make this necessary.

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Andre Gagne
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"Blizzard Entertainment switched Chinese operators on June 7th from The9 to rival NetEase, hoping to earn a higher royalty rate on the game."

Probably means the subscriptions are the same (or similar) but that Blizzard gets less than 100%.

Simon Ludgate
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Gaming Steve went through The9's license agreement with Blizzard and explains how WoW runs in China (in 2005):

22% royalties, so you can see why Blizzard wanted to switch.

Also, this post from a WoW player who lived in China explains how the system works:

Subscription: In WoW China, you must activate an account through a website much like on the American servers, however the main difference is the paying method: in China, you must buy game cards that allow you to play WoW for 60 hours. You can buy these cards on the street, in shops or even in game (usual price is about 450g! at first this seemed like a huge number to me, especially since TBC came out just last week in China. However it turned out to be quite reasonable considering the amount of gold circulating on the servers) and these cards are priced at about 4 dollars (quite expensive for China).

Note that, in China, until you use up your 60 hours, you're considered to have an "Active" account, so there's a great deal of speculation about what the number of "active accounts" really means, since it could mean 5 million people who bought a single 60 hour card for $4. This represents a mere $20 million, 22% of which is about $4.4 mil; in comparison, at about 4 million subscriptions in NA/EU at $15 a month each, that's $60 million EACH MONTH.

Thus I add my hat to the ring of people who complain about Blizzard lumping NA/EU active account numbers with Chinese active account numbers, since the two represent extremely different sources of revenue.