Despite predictions to the contrary, the General Administration of Press and Publication (GAPP) has managed to throw a stick in the spokes of NetEase’s wheels, suspending the application for the company to operate Activision Blizzard’s World of Warcraft (WoW). In September, Beijing appointed the Ministry of Culture (MoC) as the regulating body for Internet games while GAPP was to regulate online game publications such as game discs or online gaming magazines. An MoC representative said that since online games aren’t publications, GAPP shouldn’t be the agency that regulates them. In October, GAPP retaliated with a memorandum stating a requirement for its stamp of approval for all new online games. NetEase may have believed that it could get past some red tape with the MoC’s backing, but it has instead landed itself in the middle of an administrative bureau turf war with requisite delays, penalities, and posturing.
GAPP has halted and returned NetEase’s application for the newest version of the popular online game, citing "gross violations" of regulations. GAPP asserts that without its approval, NetEase has no right to charge existing users or register new users, and the administrative body is threatening to serve the company its just desserts, including suspension of its internet access.
Nobody thinks it will go that far, but nobody thought it would reach this point, either. Shares of NetEase and Activision Blizzard both fell, but even if it couldn’t operate the game in China, NetEase would still be a formidable player. The company still has several other blockbuster games up its sleeve, including Fantasy Westward Journey with 2.32 million peak users compared with 1 million peak users in China for WoW.