Web watchdogs duel over Warcraft

08:47, November 04, 2009      

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The Ministry of Culture (MOC) Tuesday accused the country's press regulator of overstepping its authority in regard to the widely popular World of Warcraft online video game.(Xinhua photo)

The Ministry of Culture (MOC) Tuesday accused the country's press regulator of overstepping its authority in regard to the widely popular World of Warcraft online video game.

Li Xiong, chief of the Department of Cultural Markets under the MOC, said during a news briefing Tuesday that the GAPP had no right to authorize NetEase to stop hosting Activision Blizzard's "Burning Crusades" – the latest expansion pack to Blizzard's multi-billion-dollar World of Warcraft (WOW) cash cow.

One ministry openly criticizing another is rarely seen in China.
The GAPP did not comment Tuesday.

WOW is classified as an MMORPG, or massively multiplayer online role playing game, in which players control a unique character with abilities such as magic and complete in-game missions by themselves or with any of the 12 million monthly subscribers the game developer boasts.

Li's words came after the General Administration of Press and Publication (GAPP) issued a statement Tuesday on its official website, saying it had returned the application of NetEase, the No. 2 online game company in China, and terminated its operation of the game, saying that NetEase had continued hosting the game before being granted approval and calling such action a "gross violation of regulations."

But the MOC claimed that online games don't belong in the category of publications, which are under the jurisdiction of the GAPP, saying that the management of online games falls under the direction of the ministry.

"Although there are different views between the two parties, the case should be conducted in strict accordance with the disciplines of the State Council," Li said.

An official document released by the State Council in July 2008 stated that the MOC is in charge of online games while the GAPP is responsible for reviewing the games before they are officially launched online.

Liu Qiang, an official with the Ministry of Culture, said in a previous interview that NetEase was permitted to operate the game.

NetEase's shares ended down 2.41 percent at $37.69 on the Nasdaq, and Activision Blizzard's stock ended down 4.3 percent at $10.37, respectively, following the decision that urged NetEase to stop taking new registrations and payments for the game.

Liu Youcai, a marketing officer at NetEase, used a Chinese saying to describe the current situation, saying, "When the gods fight, we little ghosts suffer."

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