Another inner split for WoW, this time not about devs but publishers, and despite Big Money Involved (TM).
The9 and Blizzard/VUG are in a dispute over The Burning Crusade, the expansion for World of Warcraft. Blizzard/VUG is apparently taking that stance that The9 does not get it as part of their original deal, and that the Chinese operator needs to pay an additional license fee and/or give Blizzard/VUG shares in the company. According to our insider, things have gotten to the point where Blizzard is even threatening to turn Burning Crusade into WoW 2 and find another partner for China.
See Blizzard/Vivendi going “My precioussss..”
I’m not even sure that The9 grasps the concept of “expansion”. They have a deal to run the game for four years, from June 05 to June 09, and pay royalities for 22% on the prepaid cards (more infos here). I believe the game can be freely downloaded and the players just need to pay for each hour they pass in the game as it happens in Korea ($.06 per hour, see here). Expansions and content patches are usually offered for free so I don’t think that The9 was expecting Blizzard to ask them to pay for another licence for the release of the expansion.
It will be interesting to see what happens if things go wrong. 2.5 of the 6 million of subscribers that WoW has worldwide are in China, if not more:
The operation of WoW in China attained peak and average concurrent users of approximately 530,000 and 270,000 in the fourth quarter of 2005.
With these chinese players raging against the machine and starting boycotts for the poor service. Disconnects, lag, long queues, the same stuff afflicting the western players, with the difference that in China you pay hourly, making these problem much less tolerable.
This while SOE completely failed. With EverQuest 2 being cancelled even before it was able to come out of beta.