I posted a short while ago about the WTO mandating China must open its online gaming market to foreign operators (read here).  That hasn’t happened yet as the verdict is still being appealed.  In the meantime, however, a turf war has started in the Chinese government over whether or not World of Warcraft should be legal.  Surely there could be more substantial things to fight about.

The General Administration of Press and Publications (GAPP) has long held power over World of Warcraft in China.  After years of relatively unimpeded service, the GAPP decided (rather arbitrarily) to revoke the online gaming license of The9, WoW’s previous Chinese operator.  The game was relicensed under a company called NetEase, but not before several months of downtime this summer.

Well, GAPP is at it again.  On Monday, they suspended World of Warcraft, on the condition that NetEase violated its contract.  This time, interestingly enough, the Ministry of Culture jumped into the fray and declared sovereignty over online games. They ordered GAPP to restore service and back off of their turf.  Why is the Chinese government fighting over something so inconsequential?  And why is China Daily publishing it on the front page?

I took a quick look at the Chinese central government website.  The GAPP page makes no mention of its authority over online gaming.  It’s supposed to fight pornography, and that’s about it.  The Ministry of Culture, however, clearly states that its juristiction includes internet bars and online gaming (provision 9 and 10, found here).  It’s murky who outranks who in the Chinese government, but it seems like the MOC has the law on its side.

I could care less if the game is banned or not, but this is interesting.  The fight has become public, there’s over 1 million ex-WoW players in China who probably want to (and can) hack the GAPP to death, and this all comes not too long after a fresh batch of censorship in June (when we lost YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter).  I feel bad for whoever is working on internet policy in the government, since it must be all over the place.  I feel even worse for NetEase, who probably didn’t know what they were getting into.  I don’t feel so bad for the WoW players.  Sorry guys.

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