NetEase suspends new user registration for hit game

SHANGHAI (Reuters) - China’s third-largest online game operator said it has suspended new user registration for World of Warcraft (WoW) in China and will reapply for a license to operate the expansion pack of Activision Blizzard’s hit game.

New user registrations would be halted for a week from Monday in the run-up to the Lunar New Year holiday, the company said in a statement posted on its WoW China website, on Sunday.

“We recently submitted our application to operate World of Warcraft (The Burning Crusade) to the General Administration of Press and Publication for review,” the company said.

Since last November, NetEase has been caught in the crossfire of an inter-government feud over regulation of the online game space.

The tussle resulted in China’s General Administration of Press and Publication returning NetEase’s application to operate the WoW expansion pack, ordering the company to stop charging users to play the game and disallowing new account registrations citing “gross violations” of regulations. But NetEase continued to operate the game as usual saying it was in compliance with local laws.

Uncertainty over the operation of the hit title, caused investors to sell NetEase shares, which fell more than 30 percent from a record high of $48.50 achieved in September last year.

China has more than 80 million online gamers, who generated gaming revenue of $4 billion in 2009, according to Beijing-based research firm iResearch.