After much speculation, Blizzard Entertainment, Inc. has announced that it has struck a deal with online game publisher The9 to operate its World of Warcraft: The Burning Crusade expansion in mainland China. In April 2006, Blizzard released an announcement that it "is currently actively exploring and discussing cooperation opportunities and further expansion of its business with local potential partners for mainland China", leading many to believe that The9 may not be its top choice for operations management. Currently, The9 handles not only the physical hosting of World of Warcraft in China, but also local community management, technical support, customer service, and game card distribution.
"We're fully committed to ensuring that the ongoing operation of World of Warcraft in mainland China will provide an excellent experience for players there for many years to come," said Mike Morhaime, president and cofounder of Blizzard Entertainment. "We look forward to extending that commitment with this expansion as well as with future Blizzard releases."
The expansion is expected to be welcomed with wide arms; World of Warcraft is currently played by more than 3.5 million subscribers. The release date for China has not yet been set, but translation into simple Chinese has already begun. More information will become available over the next several months.