World of Warcraft is perhaps the only Western MMO to enjoy tremendous success thus far in China, the world's fastest growing market for online games. It's been a difficult road to the top though, if recent news reports are any indication. In addition to government regulations preventing Wrath of the Lich King from releasing for the Mainland, we've reported that The9 has lost the rights to operate World of Warcraft in China to competitor NetEase. Now we learn that the transition of operations from The9 to NetEase will mean World of Warcraft goes dark in China for a matter of weeks.
JLM Pacific Epoch in Shanghai has been following the story and reports that The9 will cease mainland operation of WoW at midnight on June 7th, after four years of continual service. World of Warcraft will return to China in "late June" under the banner of NetEase. It's expected that character data will be preserved with the handover.
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We've got to say though, these must have been some turbulent times for the WoW faithful in Mainland China, first not knowing whether the game would continue operation, now the fact that WoW will go offline completely for weeks, and Wrath of the Lich King is still nowhere in sight.