Burning Crusade Delayed in China, While Censorship Abounds
The Chinese release of The Burning Crusade, the expansion pack for Blizzard's popular World of Warcraft MMOG, has been delayed over content concerns.
World of Warcraft has proven as immensely popular in China as it is in the rest of the world, with 3.5 million Chinese players as of January. This popularity has led to increased scrutiny from the Chinese government, however, and concern over "controversial" content has forced the developers to make numerous modifications to the game's content, such as adding flesh to skeletal undead. As a result, the government is examining the expansion pack much more closely than normal, which has resulted in the process taking longer than the standard one-month period.
Shanghai-based The9, which holds the license to operate World of Warcraft in China, has also begun censoring in-game conversations between players. The company has banned almost 10,000 words from user chats in the game, which now displays only blank spaces when the offending words are used. While most of the banned language is either profanities or slang terms, the name of at least one rival company, Shanda (Shanda Interactive Entertainment), has also been banned. Zhao Yurun, public relations manager with The9, said the censorship is necessary in order to "clean up the WoW environment."
I'm sure they don't want any revolutionary movements planned in-game either. I wonder if any world intelligence agencies utilize MMOG's as a means of communication and intelligence gathering. Well... Information gathering, but you get the idea.
I'd be a lot more surprised if Chinese (and other) intelligence agencies didn't have their fingers all over WoW and the like. While I don't harbour any illusions about MMOGs being arenas for constructive social interactive and the free exchange of ideas, there's no way 3.5 million subscribers isn't making the authorities just a wee bit nervous.