You might be asking yourself why we're talking about WoW on a blog for Dragon Oath. The fact of the matter is nobody can deny WoW's universal success. This success means that many other MMOs, Dragon Oath included, are affected by decisions made regarding World of Warcraft. I'm willing to bet that most of you, even if you don't play WoW yourself, have heard about or tuned into news on the subject of WoW's recent troubles in the Chinese market. It certainly hasn't been smooth sailing for the world's most-subscribed MMORPG.
While WoW has had trouble with localization and Chinese governmental regulation, we're dealing with a different problem here in America. It seems worthwhile to me to devote an entry to discussing the implications of WoW's regulatory fiasco in China and why it touches upon Dragon Oath's situation in America.
For the few of you who still aren't sure about what I'm talking about, I'm going to give a quick walkthrough of Blizzard's troubles in China. Blizzard's foray into the Chinese gaming market all started when they launched World of Warcraft in China on June 6, 2005. At the time, they partnered with local Chinese MMO developer and operator The9. This developer choice was very sound at the time, as The9 had an excellent reputation in the Chinese gaming industry and would give Blizzard a foot in the door.
For years, Blizzard's game thrived in China, where it made up the majority of an Asian gaming market that held 50% of WoW's total players. In doing so, issues of translations and satisfying governmental censors had to be addressed, as well as practical problems. Many players in China did not own personal computers. For this, Blizzard introduced a pay-per-minute system and decided to forego the traditional monthly subscription model.
This success ran for several years. Blizzard introduced the first expansion, Burning Crusade, in 2007. It wasn't really until 2008, when Blizzard launched the second expansion, Wrath of the Lich King, that the Chinese government really began to give them problems. For you see, the new expansion touched on some taboo themes of death, spirits, and the undead. The Chinese government saw this and deemed the game unfit to be released, causing the release date of this expansion to be pushed back more and more. The gamers were getting fed up, and Blizzard had to deal with it one way or another. And so on June 7, 2009, Blizzard's contract with The9 expired, and Blizzard decided to take their game to a new developer company, NetEase. Unfortunately for Blizzard and for gamers everywhere, things were about to take a turn for the worse.
At the time of the transition, NetEase was not ready to launch its own game servers yet, and players were asked to wait an indefinite period of time for the new servers to go up. Not only was the technical aspect interfering with gaming, but the Chinese government was also not quick to approve the return of WoW, especially since the content that had met with disapproval had not been addressed or changed. It wasn't until this month that NetEase has been approved to relaunch World of Warcraft in China. Just in time, since Blizzard is due to announce the fourth expansion soon...
And that is, in a nutshell, what World of Warcraft fans in China have been dealing with for several months now. While it's easy to heap copious amounts of blame on the Chinese government, it may be more appropriate to step back and really analyze the situation. This is the same government that has had to enact laws on gold farming to stop literal gaming sweatshops. This is also the government that can't control IP violations to save their lives. The proliferation of piracy highly discourages game publishers to release piratable software in China, which means that the entire gaming population flocks to the MMORPG as their gaming outlet. With so much of society's attention absorbed through gaming, it's natural for a government to want to regulate, and it's not easy to correctly judge a regulation as an outside observer.
As for Dragon Oath? We here at ChangYou.com(US) are certainly lucky to be entering a market that is relatively free of content restriction. What we've come to discover though, is that instead of the government issuing mandated regulations, here the users give developers implicit orders for what they want to see in their games. Localization has definitely been one of the biggest issues we've had to tackle, and that is where every developer who is expanding into a foreign market can learn from the recent events that happened in the World of Warcraft.