The political struggle in China over the regulation of the online games space has once again hit the operation of Blizzard's World of Warcraft in the country, with operator NetEase announcing a suspension of new registrations for the game yesterday.
The move comes as the governmental department, the General Administration of Press and Publication, ordered NetEase to stop charging people to play the game as a result of "gross violations" of regulations, reports Reuters.
NetEase has denied that is the case, and that the game complies with local laws, but this latest event is the outcome of an ongoing clash between government departments - with both the GAPP and the Ministry of Culture flexing muscles over who should oversee the online space.
The warning bells first rang in March last year when the GAPP announced its intention to target non-Chinese titles in a bid to "avoid the excessive penetration of foreign culture among Chinese youth" - with WoW mentioned specifically by Digital Publishing Bureau director Kou Xiaowei.
Since then Blizzard opted to change operator from The9 to NetEase, but as the changeover took place the game was forced to remain in a beta phase while the Chinese government processed a new permit.
That took several months to conclude, but when the game was finally relaunched in September, the GAPP's "surly interference" (according to the Ministry of Culture) created more issues, and NetEase was ordered to stop new registrations for a period of time in November.
The issues were finally cleared up at the beginning of this year - but the game was untroubled for only a month before this new bump in the road.
But Blizzard's VP of International, Michael Ryder, refused to criticise the process of getting the game back online after the operator transition when speaking to GamesIndustry.biz last year.
"We're working hard to complete the transition - we're working with the government to get the final approvals, and we've made a tremendous amount of progress in a short period of time in transitioning from one partner to another in going to NetEase," he said then.
"Our servers are up-and-running now in a beta test phase, and concurrency is running quite high, so we know there's continued interest with the players. We've transitioned everyone over to the Battle.Net account management system, which has been a big success for us as well.
"We've upgraded the technology and the server hardware across the board and everyone's very pleased with how that's performing. So we feel pretty good about the progress we've made, and hopefully we'll be getting the rest of the approvals we need in the near future and then we'll be back on track."
Blizzard has not yet commented on the current situation.