Blizzard Entertainment's massively popular, massively multiplayer online role-playing franchise World of Warcraft boasts some 11.5 million users worldwide, and a significant chunk of that tally hails from China. However, since November, the online game's operation has been in jeopardy, after Blizzard's new distribution partner in the region, NetEase, became mired in a dispute between two regulatory agencies within China.
Today, Reuters reports that NetEase's travails may come to a conclusion this month. China's General Administration of Press and Publication (GAPP) told Reuters that a resolution and announcement concerning World of Warcraft would be revealed "very soon." Citing local media, Reuters reports that NetEase will be able to resume operating the game after paying an undisclosed fine.
GAPP had initially revoked NetEase's permit to operate the MMORPG due to "gross violations" of Chinese law. However, the Chinese Ministry of Culture quickly denounced the move, saying that GAPP "overstepped its authority" as it did not have the authority to penalize online gaming.
Despite the legal tussle, Blizzard confirmed for GameSpot that at no point did the game go offline in China. However, the dispute did impact the release of WOW's first expansion, The Burning Crusade. GAPP reportedly denied NetEase's application to localize the expansion pack as part of the interagency conflict. Citing analyst reports, Reuters notes that NetEase will now have an opportunity to bring the fast-selling add-on to China.
NetEase shares rebounded in a big way today. Having slipped more than 20 percent since September, shares in the online game operations company rose more than 10 percent to $41.66.