Blizzard has announced that it has signed a deal with Chinese online game publisher The9 for the operation of World of Warcraft: The Burning Crusade
in mainland China, after months of speculation over the deal.
In April 2006, Blizzard published a cryptic release
announcing that it "is currently actively exploring and discussing cooperation opportunities and further expansion of its business with local potential partners for mainland China", implying that it may be evaluating other partners than current Chinese World Of Warcraft
The NASDAQ-traded The9 has continued to post
significant revenues thanks to the runaway success of WoW
in China, and it had been speculated that the game's unexpectedly huge success in the territory had led to difficulties in renegotiating for the game's expansion.
World Of Warcraft
is currently played by more than 3.5 million subscribers in China, according to the Blizzard press release - although most Chinese gamers pay around 5 cents per hour to play in Internet cafes or at home, rather than signing up for a larger monthly subscription as in the West.
Specifically, Blizzard's use of 'subscribers' includes "individuals who have paid a subscription fee or have an active prepaid card to play World of Warcraft
, as well as those who have purchased the game and are within their free month of access. Internet Game Room players who have accessed the game over the last thirty days are also counted as subscribers."
Today's announcement reveals that localization of The Burning Crusade
into simplified Chinese is underway, and "further details regarding the release of the expansion in China will be announced in the months ahead."
In addition, the renegotiated agreement between Blizzard and The9 includes "provisions for hardware upgrades to the existing World of Warcraft
infrastructure to enable the best gaming experience possible for players in China." Working closely with Blizzard's global teams, The9 will continue providing local community management, technical support, and 24/7 in-game customer service. The9 also manages distribution of game cards and the physical hosting of World of Warcraft
and The Burning Crusade
on local servers.
"We're fully committed to ensuring that the ongoing operation of World of Warcraft
in mainland China will provide an excellent experience for players there for many years to come," said Mike Morhaime, president and cofounder of Blizzard Entertainment. "We look forward to extending that commitment with this expansion as well as with future Blizzard releases."