By Li Qiaoyi
The widely anticipated relaunch of World of Warcraft (WOW), a multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG), was finally confirmed over the weekend, according to an official statement on WOW's Chinese website.
The relaunch presents opportunities for NetEase, a large online game provider, given the game's already huge and solid user base, Wang Menglong, an industry insider said, while pointing out that underlying problems remain a challenge.
The relaunch is due to a transfer in the licensing of WOW in China. NetEase will take over The9, another major game provider, as the official host of the game.
"Now that you have to start over from scratch, some people may quit playing WOW. They've already got to a certain level and may not want to replay. But I don't think the relaunch will have a major impact on their user base,"said Cao Liang, a WOW fan who started playing MMORPGs in 2000.
Most subscribers will continue their journey in WOW, Cao said.
It has been reported that NetEase has spent more than 1 million yuan ($146,455.77) per day to maintain WOW's servers during the testing period from July 30 to September 14.
When you take into account the hundreds of staff members who work on the game full-time, maintaining the servers is very costly, said Wang.
However, he believes that within three years, NetEase will be able to increase its popularity, making the acquisition worthwhile.
NetEase saw growing revenue in the second quarter, with business income from online games accounting for 89.6 percent of its total revenue, according to its second quarter fiscal report released on August 13.
WOW is expected to bring in a 30 percent growth in NetEase's game sales volume and a 4 percent increase in the game provider's sales market share by 2010, Morgan Stanley wrote in a report last month.
However, the deal is not risk-free. The Chinese mainland version's content updates lag behind those of the Taiwanese and US versions, leading to dissatisfaction among users and potentially sending them away from the game, said Wang.
Cao, the gamer, also complained about the slow updates, saying it certainly affects the user's experiences in the game.
'Wrath of the Lich King,' WOW's second expansion set, will be sent to the government for approval as soon as possible, said WOW's official statement over the weekend.
The third expansion, however, has already been showcased in the US. 'Cataclysm' was unveiled August 21 at BlizzCon 2009.
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