World of Warcraft awaits China's approval to relaunch

The game has already been offline for six weeks as it switches local operators

The relaunch of the popular online game World of Warcraft in China, where it has already been offline for six weeks, still faces an indefinite delay as it awaits government approval for its content.

Problems for Blizzard Entertainment, the game's creator, started when it switched to a new local operator for World of Warcraft in China, online gaming company NetEase. New operators of foreign games have to submit the games for government approval, and China has objected to some of the content it found in its latest review of World of Warcraft.

The state agency vetting the game will soon complete the first round of the process, but the game will have to be resubmitted with some content changes to receive approval, an employee at the official General Administration of Press and Publication said by phone Monday. The game did not pass the first round of review because its content has changed since The9, Blizzard's former Chinese partner, last gained clearance to operate the game, the employee said.

The employee declined to say what changes must be made or when the game could receive final approval.

A statement on World of Warcraft's official Chinese Web site said the game had not changed from before the hand-over, suggesting that any content changes since its last official approval occurred under its former operator.

A Blizzard spokeswoman declined to comment.

World of Warcraft and other online games are extremely popular in China, where young males congregate in Internet bars to play them for hours or nights at a time. Local media put the number of World of Warcraft players in China at 5 million. The game has 11.5 million subscribers worldwide, according to Blizzard.

The game has been modified to meet the Chinese government's demands before. Skeletons added to the game in an update overseas appeared with flesh in China.

Government objections have also prevented the China release of Wrath of the Lich King, the game's latest expansion. The expansion twice failed to gain government approval despite content revisions, possibly due to elements like the "death knight" character class, according to local media.

World of Warcraft's Chinese servers have been offline since June 7, when The9's operating license expired.

Netease could not immediately be reached for comment.

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Owen Fletcher

IDG News Service
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