World of Warcraft back online in China
GAPP finally approves NetEase's application to operate game in country
It seems that NetEase has finally been given the go-ahead by officials to launch World of Warcraft in China following many months of uncertainty.
According to analyst firm Cowen and Company, a Chinese-language notice has been posted on the website of China's General Administration of Press and Publication (GAPP) regulatory body stating approval has been granted for NetEase to operate the game.
No reference was made to any penalties handed out to the company for going live with the game prior to receiving GAPP approval - an accusation made by GAPP and denied by NetEase.
However, Cowen noted that any likely fine would have a minimal impact on NetEase's balance sheet anyway, which currently shows over £900m in cash.
Resolution of the regulatory issue might also pave the way for government approval of the WoW: Wrath of the Lich King expansion pack later in the year, it added, and benefit Activision Blizzard shareholders. The publisher recently mentioned that it expects the game to continue to operate in China for the foreseeable future.
"We believe NetEase is well positioned to benefit from continuing strong growth in the Chinese online gaming market. Additionally, NetEase’s licensing deal with Blizzard gives the company the most diversified portfolio of games among its peers," said Cowen.
World of Warcraft first ran into problems in China in March of last year when GAPP announced a clamp down on foreign games in a bid to avoid excessive penetration of foreign culture on Chinese youth.
Blizzard subsequently changed its operator in the country from The9 to NetEase, but the game was forced to remain in beta phase following the move, and NetEase announced a suspension of new registrations earlier this month.