World of Warcraft (sort of) returns to China
Officials send game back to 'beta testing'
China's millions of World of Warcraft players may soon have a chance to return to the massively popular online game after nearly two months of government-enforced downtime.
Chinese officials will allow WoW to relaunch starting July 30, but only for previously registered players while Blizzard Entertainment makes changes to unspecified content found to be objectionable. Blizzard has previously been required to make alterations to the game such as covering skeletal characters with skin to suit the country's censors.
Blizzard is obviously willing to play ball with China because of the country's enormous population of players. Local media put the number of Chinese WoW players at 5 million while Blizzard estimates its worldwide player base is about 11.5 million total.
World of Warcraft went offline after Blizzard dumped its long-time local operator The9 in favor of its rival, NetEase. China requires all new operators of foreign online games to apply for a license and to submit the game's content for screening.
China's cultural ministry, which performs part of the review, has given the game a green light, according to the agency's website. However, the General Administration of Press and Publication (GAPP) in charge of regulating print and online publications has found content it finds objectionable that must be removed or changed before it can be released to the general public. Blizzard will be required to make the changes and resubmit the game for further screening.
But GAPP has decided to let WoW open for "beta testing" before the changes are in place, according to China's government-run Xinhua news agency. Those already with accounts can play, but new users must wait until the game gets final clearance.
The news agency reports during the "beta" period, NetEase won't be allowed to collect fees on the game. It's unclear whether the company plans to take the offer in hopes of bringing back players who may have abandoned WoW during the downtime or wait until the game has the full blessing of China's regulators. ®
Re: Steve Swann
What are we talking about here? You're comparing the removal of skeletons graphics in a game to the Holocaust and female circumcision? You do want your Godwin points, right?
I think you're overreacting. western countries do that very same kind of censorship on a routine basis. It's got nothing to do with women's rights or political speech. We haven't heard anything about non-gov undead organizations protesting that their right to show their bones is stiffled.
And believe me, I know exactly what Chinese censorship is. I know what it is when Google stops working. I know what it is when Facebook stays unreachable for weeks (as is the case now). I know what it feels when I receive Time Magazine with a page cut off because of its content.
Removing skeletons in a game has got nothing to do with that. It's exactly like Americans removing breasts pictures, which, in my set of values, is ridiculous, but hey - it's their country. Or do you want me to fight for the right of Americans to see naked tits, because I have a moral duty to intervene?
Gosh, as soon as they see the words "Chinese government", some people instantly feel the need to jump on their Chinese-made electronic soapbox to explain that whatever they do, it must be wrong, because, well, just because.
That's a ridiculous argument.
You suggest that the 'morality' (expressed as censorship, in this case) of others is none of our business and that we 'get over it' as our values are non-universal.
Would you apply the same argument to female circumcision? How about The Holocaust? What about the burning of the (american) flag? Racism? How about the ethnic cleansing that has taken place in countries such as Rwanda? Human rights abuses in Saudi? Sharia law taken to extremes in Iran?
Let's bring it right home: If *I* banned *you* from the net (due to an authority that I hold that you didn't grant me) wouldn't you rail against it? Wouldn't you hope that your friends would stand by you? Wouldn't you hope that the larger community would support you against the unfair situation I place you in?
...or do you expect everyone to just say "Meh, not my business"... ?
Those are all the morals of other nations, yet you'd not intervene? Morality is little more than an evolutionary meme, and the best ones survive by eliminating the poorer ones. We, as moral people, have no choice but to intervene on behalf of others where we feel, universally, that their rights have been restricted by comparision to ours.
The price of freedom, both ours and that of others, is eternal vigilance.
Hrm, well that's interesting. I thought China had nice big pipes with low latency? I play Eve Online from Australia on a server in London, and there is some latency, but not nearly enough to be problematic. Server-side lag is a far bigger issue, which affects players without regard to their ping times. Is WoW really that dependant on rapid response from the server? It's not like you're playing a FPS, after all.
Although, I gave WoW a try once, and noticed my ping times to Oceanic servers (supposedly local) tended to hover around 550ms, whereas in Eve, my ping times to London are generally around 250ms. Maybe Blizzard just have shite networking code?