WOW row inside Chinese government intensifies

Culture Ministry castigates rival agency for having "overstepped its authority" by revoking World of Warcraft permits; Blizzard claims MMORPG still "online and operational" in China.


World of Warcraft
Peggle: World of Warcraft Edition

Earlier this week, one arm of the Chinese government attempted to shut down local operations of World of Warcraft. Now, another Beijing regulatory agency has declared the move went too far--raising further questions about the fate of Blizzard Entertainment's massively multiplayer online role-playing game in the country.

The Chinese government has two agencies fighting to keep WOW players in line.
The Chinese government has two agencies fighting to keep WOW players in line.

According to the New York Times (registration required), the Chinese Ministry of Culture denounced the move by the Chinese General Administration of Press and Publication (GAPP) to suspend WOW operations in the Asian nation. On Monday, Reuters reported that GAPP had revoked the permit needed to operate the MMORPG from localization partner NetEase, citing "gross violations" of Chinese law.

In a Wednesday article in the Beijing newspaper Economic Information Daily (translated by the Times), a Culture Ministry official declared, "In regards to the World of Warcraft incident, the General Administration of Press and Publication has clearly overstepped its authority. They do not have the authority to penalize online gaming."

The dispute is part of a larger dispute between the GAPP and Culture Ministry over which can regulate China's booming online gaming market. Hong Kong-based Citi Investment Research & Analysis analyst Alicia Yap told the Times that online gaming revenues rose 50 percent in 2008 to $2.9 billion--10 times what it was five years ago. That total is expected to more than double by 2013, said Yap.

So where does the Chinese government's internecine bureaucratic battles leave World of Warcraft? "That aside from some downtime tied to the standard maintenance schedule, the game is online, operational, and hasn't been suspended [in China]," a Blizzard rep told GameSpot.

Earlier this year, the Culture Ministry made headline for summarily banning online "gangster games" in China.

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