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Blizzard ditches long-time WoW operator

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Blizzard Entertainment is dumping its long-time China World of Warcraft distributor and operator, a company that relies heavily on the online adventure, for a rival operation.

Online games operator NetEase.com said on Thursday it has won a three-year license to host Blizzard's massively popular role playing game in mainland China. The firm presently hosts nearly every other Blizzard game in the country.

WoW's current license is held by rival The9, a contract that's set to expire on June 8. The9 has some of the most powerful privately owned supercomputers in the country, which it uses to host a number of online games. However, the company gets at least 75 per cent of its revenue from WoW alone. Clearly not good news for The9.

NetEase said it's not going change the current time-based billing model for WoW when the license to operate the game is transferred over. In most other areas, Blizzard charges gamers by the month. Last August, NetEase scored a license to operate Starcraft II, Warcraft III multiplayer services in China.

The fate of WoW's new second expansion, Wrath of the Lich King is still unclear in China. Although NetEase acquired the license to sell Wrath there, Chinese censors wouldn't have any of The9's earlier attempts to bring the expansion into the country. Officials cited People's Republic govermentspeak grievances over Wrath's "objectionable" content, like its frequent depictions of skeletons and the new Death Knight class of hero. ®

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