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The China Angle: 'The Burning Question'

In Gamasutra's latest China Angle column, Pacific Epoch's Shang Koo reports rumors of a fire at WoW operator The9 causing outages ahead of its Burning Crusade upgrade, and casual portal operator Sohu charging RealNetworks with stolen code.
In Gamasutra's latest China Angle column, Pacific Epoch's Shang Koo reports rumors of a fire at WoW operator The9 causing outages ahead of its Burning Crusade upgrade, and casual portal operator Sohu charging RealNetworks with stolen code. Is Something Burning? Several hundred thousand Chinese World of Warcraft (WoW) players gave a collective sigh of relief on Thursday, when China’s WoW operator The9 announced that unscheduled maintenance on WoW’s first server farm has been completed. Twenty server groups (out of 40) in the server farm were offline for almost two days starting on the night of Tuesday April 24. The 20 server groups represented around 7 percent of The9’s server capacity for World of Warcraft, or about 50,000 peak users. According to a rumor in Chinese portal Sohu's online community, The9's server hosting room in Zhangjiang caught fire on Tuesday night and WoW's first server farm was exposed. Some servers in the room were allegedly burned and some account information was lost, causing 35 million Yuan in property loss, said the post. The9 public relations manager Zhao Yurun denied the fire rumor. The unscheduled maintenance occurred a day before the start of scheduled maintenance in preparation for The Burning Crusade expansion. Unlike the North American market, The9 plans to skip version 2.0 and directly upgrade to The Burning Crusade. The expansion should be launched near the end of June, a few weeks after college entrance exam is completed. That may not be enough to save The9 from the blame game when angry parents look for excuses for why their children performed poorly on the exam. The Chinese government recently launched a fatigue system to limit online game playing time by those under 18. Sohu Versus Goliaths China’s second largest Internet portal Sohu is suing RealNetworks’ Chinese subsidiary for copyright infringement. The lawsuit comes a week after Sohu charged search giant Google with using Sohu’s language database in its new Chinese language input software without permission. Sohu claims RealNetworks’ online casual game portal RealGame contains source code from Sohu’s own game portal. The accusation may have merit, as RealNetworks’ development team for RealGame head hunted heavily from Sohu. Sohu’s lawsuit is nothing more than a publicity stunt, as Sohu’s online game business is miniscule and Chinese courts never award significant monetary compensations in lawsuits. Step Aside, Johnny Chan The first annual World Series of Mahjong will be held at Wynn Hotel and Casino in Macau from June 15 – 17, 2007. The tournament has a US$5000 registration fee and a minimum purse of US$1 million. An online preliminary of the tournament is being held in China from April 23 to May 25. Two rounds will be held each week. Top prize for each round is the US$5000 registration fee for the tournament. Gambling in mainland China is still illegal, but that has not stopped the online tournament from obtaining mainland Chinese company sponsors. Among the sponsors is Chinese P2P video broadcaster PPLive, which will broadcast the tournaments live. Chinese government also bans video games from TV broadcasts, but online broadcasting still falls under a regulatory gray zone. [Shang Koo is an editor at Shanghai-based Pacific Epoch, and oversees research and daily news content on China's new media industries, with a concentration in online games. Pacific Epoch itself provides investment and trade news and publishes a number of subscription products regarding the Chinese technology market. Readers wanting to contact him can e-mail [email protected].]

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