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 Battle.net 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
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.