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November 3, 2009

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Bureaucrats spar on cyber game

THE General Administration of Press and Publications said last night it will halt the approval process for the World of WarCraft, giving the popular online game an uncertain fate on the Chinese mainland as two government agencies battle for control.

The game, played by more than 1 million mainlanders, has been in jeopardy since Nasdaq-listed replaced The9 Ltd as its operator on the mainland in July. The reason: two Chinese government bureaus claimed they had rights to review and approve the WoW and they had differing opinions about allowing it to continue.

"NetEase should stop charging users and close its servers immediately; otherwise it will be punished through measures such as suspension of Internet services," the GAPP said in a statement.

The Ministry of Culture, however, said the GAPP doesn't have the right to review the game and the ministry is still taking a look at it, reported last night, citing Liu Qiang, a ministry official.

NetEase said it was still communicating with government bureaus, without providing details.

NetEase apparently is stuck in the middle of a battle between the two agencies to control the online game.

The GAPP said that it allowed NetEase to start beta testing of WoW on July 30 on condition that it did not charge gamers and did not allow new account registration. But NetEase began charging players and taking new account registration on September 19 without GAPP permission.

The ministry has the right to regulate the "online game" market while the GAPP is responsible for reviewing and approving "publications."

The GAPP said downloading online games is also an "online publication."

The battle for control of the online game is costing a lot of money because the WoW is expected to bring in "several million yuan daily" after it goes into formal operation, according to analysts.



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