World of Warcraft expansion gets approval in China

The approval of the expansion pack comes months after the online game was threatened to be shutdown

Months after being caught in a dispute between Chinese regulators, World of Warcraft is having a smoother time clearing government hurdles in China. Last Friday, the expansion pack "Wrath of the Lich King" was approved by the country's General Administration of Press and Publication (GAPP).

The Shanghai Municipal Press and Publication Bureau confirmed the approval on its website on Wednesday. NetEase, the Chinese online game provider for World of Warcraft, however had no comment said company spokeswoman Liddy Li.

Chinese press reports say the expansion pack is expected to be out as early as August, but that it first must gain final approval from China's Ministry of Culture.

World of Warcraft started to see trouble in China late last year after it was caught in a turf war between the Ministry of Culture and GAPP. The two were arguing over who had authority to approve a previous expansion pack, "The Burning Crusade," and one point nearly threatened to shutdown the game.

Even as this next expansion pack has received approval from GAPP, analysts say similar disputes between the two agencies surrounding overseas online games could still arise in the future.

"I think this could happen again," said Zhao Xufeng, an analyst with consultancy firm iResearch. "But the game got approval, and the two agencies have resolved their past issue. Still, this issue over who has authority between them will inevitably appear again."

Yu Yi, an analyst with the research firm Analysys, said World of Warcraft will serve as a standard for other overseas online games that wish to come to China.

"We still don't know if the government will tighten or relax restrictions for World of Warcraft or other online games wanting to come in," Yu said. "But if these overseas games do come, I think it will be made clearer for them on how to meet the regulations, and the process should be faster."

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Michael Kan

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