Blizzard and World of Warcraft have been having some trouble as of late in China, but this piece of news seems much more foreboding that anything that came before it. Apparently, an anonymous insider says China's General Administration of Press and Publication (GAPP) has assigned Shanghai's News and Press Bureau to investigate a joint venture established by NetEase and Blizzard. Not too long ago, NetEase became the new benefactor of licensing rights for World of Warcraft, but GAPP thinks the deal aims to break Chinese law.
China is very clear when it comes to foreign companies operating online games domestically through a joint venture or sole investment -- they do not tolerate it. Without argument, GAPP approval is required for any foreign online games. If they find that the NetEase and Blizzard deal aimed to operate as a joint venture, thus allowing Blizzard more control of their MMO in China, things could become bad for the two companies.
Without GAPP approval, World of Warcraft cannot be displayed publicly, traded or promoted. If a company were to attempt such a thing without approval, GAPP has said they will shoulder legal responsiblities. Assuming that were to happen, it could become very difficult for Blizzard to find a Chinese distributor for World of Warcraft. Considering the massive amounts of players who live in China, 11 million subscribers could be easily halved in the worst case scenario.