According to a Sina.com news report that quotes an unnamed insider, the Chinese online game operator The9 and the U.S. game company Blizzard Entertainment failed to reach an agreement for The9 to continue to hold the operating rights of World of Warcraft in China.
However, a representative from The9 denies that they have failed in the renewal of the World of Warcraft contract. The9 and Blizzard Entertainment are apparently still discussing terms of the deal, but the details are currently not available.
The contract between The9 and Blizzard Entertainment about the joint operation of World of Warcraft in China will expire in June 2009. Over the last four years, World of Warcraft was the major contributor to the income of The9 and the revenue from this game once accounted for about 90% of The9's total revenue.
The9's attitude towards the contract renewal with Blizzard Entertainment has been changing over the past year. Zhu Jun, chairman and CEO of The9, said in January 2008 that The9 has maintained a good relationship with Blizzard Entertainment and the company will not lose World of Warcraft. However, Chen Xiaowei, president of The9, said in January 2009 that if The9 does not have World of Warcraft, The9 will still be The9. Chen also said its contract with Blizzard Entertainment will not be due until June 2009, so there was no hurry to renew the contract.
Sina.com reports that Blizzard Entertainment is probably not satisfied with The9's operation over the past four years, so it hopes to raise higher requirements in the new contract and it may introduce a new negotiating partner, which has led to friction with The9. In addition, The9 is promoting FIFA Online2 developed by Electronic Arts, a major competitor of Blizzard Entertainment, which also might be increasing tensions over the contract renewal.