Tobold's Blog
Thursday, August 06, 2009
WoW in Asia

Via Wolfshead, who got the news from Tesh, I found a Gamasutra article saying that WoW is still down in China. But apparently that is old news, with Massively reporting a "partial relaunch" of WoW China on July 30th. But as the Gamasutra post points out, Blizzard only gets 6% of their WoW profits from Asia, so even 2 months of outage of half of their players didn't hurt their finances all that much.

Nevertheless I noticed that pretty much everyone is making the same logical mistake when talking about WoW in Asia, jumping from the news of server outages and lower costs to play on Chinese servers to the effect on the famous "Chinese gold farmers". That is completely invalid, because the "Chinese gold farmer" is not playing on a Chinese server. What would they want there? Their affluent customers are on the European and US servers, and there is no way to farm gold on a Chinese server and then transfer it to the US / Europe. Chinese gold farmers are playing on European and US servers, thus any outages of the Chinese servers don't affect them at all, and they pay $15 per month for the priviledge. Which they probably don't mind, because while the cost on Chinese servers is supposedly around 5 cents per hour, a gold farming account runs for 700 hours per month. You need to play less than 300 hours per month for the Chinese server to be less expensive than the US / Euro ones.

The reason Blizzard makes so little money from the Asian players is that their previous operator The9 kept most of the revenue, some analysts say Blizzard only got 20%. As the Gamasutra article states, Blizzard will get a much higher share of the profit from Netease, so even with the 2 month server outage they'll come out ahead in the long run. But I still wonder how many players they lost during that time.
According to a friend who is currently living in china and playing on the US realms, most of the chinese serious players (ie, raiders) who were on the chinese realms have bought the taiwanese copies of WoW, and rerolled on the Taiwanese realms - apparently realms of much better quality than the The9-run chinese ones.

Also, the relaunched chinese WoW has more changes -,1.shtml - blood is now black, and some icons have been replaced with generic boxes
The "chinese" farmer might not be in China at all. I was watching this Gamer Generation episode where they interview this gold farmer and he's set up operations in Romania and the Philippines. His interview starts around 3:16.

And even without the outsourced foreign labor, you still have botters and account hackers.
I'm sure 2 months of outage will be a net gain in WoW's popularity over there.

There is no "geek" stigma attached to games over there, in fact typically they are played in public.

So something already insanely popular with young people got banned for 2 months and is no available again.

It will be insanely fashionable. This repeats the history of Elvis who was banned from several small towns during his first years because of his suggestive dancing.

In China the new fashion will be: Be a rebel, play WoW!
I never said anything about gold farmers. I've actually ignored them for the most part, since I don't particularly care about them, where they come from or how much they are paying. The only part that really bothers me about them is the potential for identity theft, and defending against that is pretty mindless standard internet security.

I don't see a causal link between gold farmers and the lower cost to play in China, and I've never even hinted at one.

I will definitely be interested in what the new Chinese intermediary does with Blizzard, though. The change in numbers will be interesting. Mostly, though, I just wish we could get some real metrics on the ARPU and ARPPU and the difference between Asia and the West.
i was really surprised at the concept of gold farming when i learned about it in the MMORPG documentary, "Second Skin".

It was just a small part of the overall film, but still it was a bit eye opening. They even interviewed the director about it for a Popular Science article on gold farming.
Exactly true about the gold farmers. And you also gotta wonder how much money Blizzard makes from them constantly buying new accounts after they get banned.

RE: the Chinese severs, wow I'm very surprised they only make 6% of their profit from them! No wonder they wanted to change supplier. I also wonder how many Chinese players they've lost although as they say "absence makes the heart grow fonder!".
If they really want to stop the goldfarming they can just block all the Chinese IP addresses. None of them can then play on the European servers (except through a proxy of course).

But I think that goldfarmers just make too much real dollars for Blizzard. They do pay their monthly bills after all.
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