China's General Administration of Press and Publication (GAPP) announced today that it had halted the review process for The Burning Crusade expansion pack of NetEase's (Nasdaq: NTES) licensed MMORPG, World of Warcraft, and returned the company's application.
The notice explained that Shanghai EaseNet Network Technology, the NetEase affiliate that holds the Mainland China operating rights to WoW, began charging for the game and accepting new user registrations - both actions which constitute commercial operation, which is prohibited without first obtaining GAPP's approval of the game - on September 19. The notice, in addition to demanding that EaseNet immediately cease charging for the game and accepting new registrations, said it would assess suitable penalties on the company, including suspension of its Internet access service.
Editor's Note: On September 19, NetEase announced the resumption of commercial operation of WoW in Mainland China, amid reports that it might not yet have obtained GAPP approval to do so. Subsequently, GAPP and the Ministry of Culture each issued announcements aimed at establishing which had the authority to regulate the operation of online games, suggesting that NetEase may have thought it had sufficient support from the MoC to move forward. For more background on this topic, please see "Chinese Government Agencies in Turf War over Gaming" MD 9/19/09 issue.