In an intriguingly cryptic press release, World Of Warcraft
creator Blizzard Entertainment has announced 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 distributor The9.
In fact, Blizzard's statement also indicated that it has invited The9 to negotiate in a bid to distribute the upcoming World of Warcraft
expansion set, World of Warcraft: The Burning Crusade
, and to discuss its release in mainland China, which is currently planned for next year.
Since it seems as if it would not be possible for different companies to manage the original WoW
and its expansion, a switch of distributor for both may possibly be on the cards, though Blizzard's formal statement simply commented that further details on distribution will be "revealed at a later date".
It's notable that The9 has come under criticism
in recent weeks for "widespread delays of over an hour when logging into the game", and "complete server outages that disrupted the endgame of a large-scale raid involving nearly 1,000 players", no doubt partly due to the extreme popularity of the game in China, one of the reasons that the official playerbase for Blizzard's PC MMO has swelled past 6 million so swiftly.