Showing posts with label wow China. Show all posts
Showing posts with label wow China. Show all posts

World of Warcraft China: Interesting Facts - Part 7

Posted by Daeity On Saturday, August 28, 2010

NA/EU Realm Populations

In North America and Europe, realm population information is extremely difficult to come by.

You pretty much have to rely on WarcraftRealm's CensusPlus UI Mod (Link). Right now, for example it's shows a total of 5.5M characters (however, these are characters from Level 10-80 and each account can have a maximum of 50 players across all realms.)

So, you can understand that the numbers aren't that accurate.

Blizzard also doesn't share Realm Population information because of obvious reasons (those details can only hurt them, not help them.) Even the definition of Low, Medium, and High Population realms can change - there's no fixed number as I have stated previously.

Blizzard has even confirmed this to be true. The populations are relative, meaning that they can shift back and forth at any time, depending on the population of other realms and their relation to the servers (Source). Population caps can even be increased/decreased depending on the number of servers being utilized or out of commission.

That troll from Blizzard even had something to say on this specific matter (before I attached Blizzard's confirmation, of course): Is it made up like most of the other "facts" on this site?

(Blizzard just confirmed it to be a fact Mr. Blizzard Troll. I guess that's further confirmation that he's just a support agent, and doesn't actually know anything about Blizzard's internal operations.)

China Realm Populations

So to summarize, in NA/EU it's almost impossible to determine census information because Blizzard will not share the information.

But in China, it's operated by NetEase so it's a totally different story! They're completely open to sharing player information on each realm. =]

Census information is pulled straight from the WoW servers by Beijing Network Technology Ltd. (there's no Census UIMod needed on each user's PC), and is publicly available here. Below are the numbers during peak gaming hours on WoW. In this case, there were approx. 790,000 users logged in concurrently.

Alliance: 338300 - Horde: 451655
So basically, a 3:4 ratio which is not bad.

The number of realms in China has also been growing steadily (many new realms launched this year and last), and some Chinese players have noted that many people are now returning in CWOW in anticipation of WOTLK's imminent release.

However, the first thing you'll notice is the incredible imbalances on the realms. I've attached screenshots below.

Some servers have 1200 horde and only 40 Alliance on the server. That's a 1:60 ratio! These drastic differences have also been confirmed by CWOW players.. they'll have thousands of players on one faction, but less than 50 on the other. It's not uncommon at all.

There also doesn't appear to be a lot of realm balancing activities. As you can see, realm A:H ratios are all over the place and most realms operate with one side significantly bigger than another. Because of this, it turns most realms into a PVE (everyone working together on one side) type realm.

To confirm my assumption, I checked with several CWOW players. They said that PVP is not very common in China, and it's mostly PVE. A more recent comment even stated, "even on PVP servers, PVE is much more popular."

As opposed to NA/EU Realms, the CWOW gaming culture seems to favor "Playing Together" rather than "Playing Against Each Other" (on average). There are many realms with a 1:0.01 ratio for example. And that's very accurate information (as hard as it is to believe for US players) and can be confirmed by any Chinese players playing on those realms. Server populations have actually improved quite a bit bit over the past few weeks, which is a good sign for WOTLK. =]

It's all pretty neat actually, and also explains why Guilds and gold PUGs are so huge and why gold farming is more popular and strategies used are almost identical. (For example, rare gold farming strategies that are applicable to NA/EU might not work in China or players probably aren't even aware of them.)

Based on those figures, I have to wonder if the same is true for NA/EU realms? When talking to US players, they often claim that their servers have 1:2, 1:4, or even 1:10 ratios (either they out-number the opposite faction, or vice versa.) They never had any evidence to back up their claims though, since realm population is not shared by Blizzard.

WOTLK China Release Date Finally!

Posted by Daeity On Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Blizzard has officially announced that Wrath of the Lich King will launch in mainland China on August 31, 2010. Hooray!

Here's the official announcement: Source

China's last expansion pack was September 6, 2007 (Burning Crusade). And WOTLK launched in NA/EU on November 13, 2008.

If you want more information about WoW China, check out the series starting with this one.

Blizzard is hoping that this new development in China and the launch of Cataclysm will help revitalize decreasing user counts. Blizzard has officially stated that their numbers have remained about the same since Feb. 2008, however player counts have actually decreased. They're predicting a significant amount of new subscriptions in China, which I will be monitoring with great anticipation. =]

One of the worries, of course, is that because this delay has gone on for so long (users are just sick-and-tired and are playing other MMORPGs) and many characters have moved to other servers (Taiwan mostly, and EU/US in some cases) to play WOTLK, that this launch won't nearly have as many new players as they had hoped. It _should_ be about 2 million new subscriptions within the first week.. anything less than that would be cause for concern. =]

World of Warcraft China: Interesting Facts - Part 6

Posted by Daeity On Friday, August 20, 2010

Here are some other interesting tid-bits of information about WoW China thanks to the guys from and other sources.

Gameplay, Culturally, and Socially

  • The first thing you'll notice is that CWOW players are much more closed towards foreigners, or perhaps shy.
  • There are no Chuck Norris, Murloc, or Justin Bieber jokes. Most of general chat is full of gold sellers (raids, power leveling, trades, etc.) or gold buyers.
  • Trolling and name calling is minimal compared to most US realms.
  • Raid leaders have a tendency to bring in too many healers.
  • Most players use cookie cutter builds and are not open to alternate builds.
  • Raid mates will sing karoke on raid voice chat.
  • Many people in game area available for hire for in-game gold to do practically anything you want (raids, power leveling, protection, scouting, delivery). It's possible to go from level 10-70 without ever spilling any blood and level very quickly.
  • You can purchase raid gear for gold or gamecards.
  • CWOW users are currently limited to Burning Crusade content, but playing with latest patches - including WOTLK talents, character balancing, level 70 glyphs, achievements, etc. There's a misconception that BC is new in China, however it's been out since 2007 (released 8 months after NA/EU). WOTLK was "expected" to be released this month (middle of Aug 2010), but it's still in limbo.
  • CWOW has a huge gold market. "It seems like nearly everyone is either a buyer or a seller." Because of the unique economy, many of the realms have Auction Houses that only have "enchanting materials, glyphs, and games. That's it. Click "Sword" and it's empty." Also, "I would say the Chinese are slightly more motivated (gold has real world value) and slightly more organized by working in teams to make gold). I never saw this on US realms."
  • Guilds are massive 300+ players than run 2-3 daily raids.
  • Due to many bugs in Vanilla and TBC bosses, most raids use these bugs for fast progress (~50% of bosses are bugged.)
  • Gold raids are the most common form of pugging, in some cases it's the ONLY form of pugging.
  • Player reputation is very important and well-known players will get favored spots in high level raids even on under-geared alts. However, most players will lend their characters to their friends so it's hard to know who you're really playing with.
  • Many of the Chinese players can speak english, and will often answer you with a "?" first to see if you type English.
  • Most Chinese type in English or Pinyin, or use a Chinese-to-English translation mod.
  • Fake Chinese ID cards are sometimes used to create accounts (can't use your own, too young, etc), so if you lose theaccount you're pretty much screwed and will not be able to recover it.
For more information, there's an English-speaking WoW Chinese community here. They can also get you started on CWOW or TWOW if you're interested. =]

Game Time Regulations

  • Players are required to associate their Chinese ID card to their account to prove that they are 18 years of age or older.
  • If you are younger than 18 years old (reflected on ID Card), you are limited to 3 hours of playing on the account. After 3 hours of playing on the account, all XP gains and loot would stop (called "Health Lock") to prevent "children" from over-playing.
  • If you are an adult, you can play for 18 hours per day. It's 3 six-hour sessions with a 2 hour session in between called "tired time". Children can play a total of 6 hours per day over a total of 2 sessions, with 1 session of 2 hours of "tired time" as well.

Pretty much anything with bones or a skeletal body has been modified. The skeleton of your corpse is replaced by a little mound of dirt with a gravestone, certain icons with skulls have been replaced by box icons, skeleton NPCs have been fleshed out so they look more like zombies, decapitated head icons have been changed, blood has either been removed or recolored, and piles of bones have been replaced with sandbags.

However, all of the cosmetic changes are based on the NetEase CWOW (free) client and it's possible it use a NA clientpatch to have the same graphics as NA/EU. Almost all censorship is client side.

The9 originally implemented these changes "to promote a healthy and harmonious on-line environment." (Source) However, the changes have also been carried over to NetEase as well to satisfy the Chinese censorship review.

There's really no clear answer as to why this censorship is required. Some say that it's cultural, about respecting the dead, and that animated bones are taboo. Others say that because China is an atheist country, the mere existence of undead content indicates that there is an afterlife and contradicts the government's official position on the matter.

If you're still interested, there's more information here and here.

World of Warcraft China: Interesting Facts - Part 5

Posted by Daeity On Thursday, August 19, 2010

Because virtual currency is so easy to procure, easy to sell (it's a $2 billion legitimate industry in China), encouraged by World of Warcraft operations, and has such real value you can imagine that a lot of players are involved in the amassing (and selling) of gold.

Many users still play the game for fun (they have jobs or alternative sources of income). But there are also professional farmers (what they do all day) and players who play for fun but also farm "on the side" to pay for gadgets, gifts, subscriptions, etc.

Although no official statistics on that exact breakdown exists, there are enough to the point where it has completely reshaped the economy and industry of WoW China.  So it's definitely a lot.

Many of the activities that take place on WoW China realms would be completely unrecognizable on NA/EU realms. Here are some examples of the types of services offered by many players in CWOW:

  • Users can be paid based on each task completed, flat rate, pay by the hour, or pay by the day. Real currency or in-game gold plus others are acceptable.
  • You can pay users to go out and collect items (mining, herbalism, skinning), mats (disenchants) and/or quest items (if shareable) for you.
  • Pay a user to grind Rugged Leather for you, you pay them based on what they bring back.
  • You can pay a user to play your account for non-leveling related services. Crafting, questing, etc.
  • Pay a person to sit on the Auction House all day and sell/buy certain goods for you.
  • You can pay players to scout for you (whether it's a location, the AH, or a vendor for limited supplies)
  • Pay a user to run errands for you, deliver goods to users who are not near mailboxes, etc.
  • Any task you can think of is open up to negoiation. (The Chinese government is trying to crack down on virtual sex trade and gambling too, so that can happen as well although it's more black market.)
  • You can buy high level guards (Level 70s on CWOW) to escort you while you quest ("Hire-a-Carebear").
Other than those services, two of the big ones are:

Power-leveling Services
  • You can pay using QQ Coins, virtual gold, or real currency for a set number of levels (or all the way to 70).
  • It's extremely cheap to get power leveled and it's very common for users to be sharing accounts. You never know who you're playing with. =] It's also the reason why account hacking is so common.
  • High level players will also hang around Stratholme, Scarlet Monastery, Shattered Halls and ZulFurrak selling power levelling services or dungeon runs (for items). Sometimes they sit in the zones or in large gathering spots advertising publicly or whispering travelers. It's also not unusual for a high level character to hang around starting zones selling leveling or dungeon running services - pay by gold if it's an alt, or pay in real currency/QQ coins if they are new.
  • It's interesting to note that on NA realms there are gold beggars in major cities. But in China, there are no low level gold beggars. Instead it's the reverse: all of the high level characters are begging for gold in the starting zones. That's how valuable WoW gold really is!  =]
Raid Auctions
  • There are several "Gold PUG" groups that raid on a daily basis. Many options are available to you.
  • The teams are made up of about 20-25 experienced raiders who bring along a group of "customers" with them. No vent or speech software is used.
  • They will clear out Black Temple, Sunwell, etc. and kill everything (even level 60 dungeons). After each boss, the customers will bid for the items that drop (100g for example) and the highest bidder pays gold before receiving the item. At the end of the raid, all of the gold collected from the customers gets split amongst certain members of the raid party (depends on their reputation, work status, if their gear contributed to the success of the raid, etc.) Some of the raiders need to work their way up before they can start earning more. A normal raider can earn anywhere between 300g to 1000G per run. If the raiders are skilled, they can reduce the total number of gold earners and profit even more per player.
  • Originally from Korea, these are gaining in popularity on NA/EU realms except that they're called "Gold Bids" or GDKP's.  (More Information)
More interesting stuff about WoW China in Part 6..

World of Warcraft China: Interesting Facts - Part 4

Posted by Daeity On Wednesday, August 18, 2010

I had mentioned earlier how it's very common for players to sell gold to purchase WoW hourly subscriptions.

"China has an internet cafe on every corner. Every single of them can access the web for 'codes' that can be entered into the blizzard website for time. For 15 rmb (2 dollars) you can play world of Warcraft with all expansions for 2000 minutes. (For this reason I have 8 accounts, because I do pay monthly fees and often play 2 or more accounts at once I can pick and choose what I like to have online. I really enjoy the freedom provided by metered time instead of a monthly subscription." (Source)
But it gets more interesting..

In China, the majority of workers (primarily Service and Industry jobs) work an entire day for less than 60rmb ($9 USD). Less than one hour of work in World of Warcraft (grinding gold) can easily cover your WoW subscription for several months. But more than that, 1-2 hour of gold farming each day can pay for your food, rent, game subscriptions, internet fees, toys/gadgets, etc. You can actually make more money playing the game then you can from a real job.

Think you can make 4500G per day? That's the same pay as an Electrical Engineer. 3000G per day? No need to be a Professional Nurse, just play WoW - you can make the same amount of money and play a healer! (Source)

Given all of the gold making guides, you don't even need to be that skilled at farming.. even casual players using standard farming techniques can pay for their living expenses.

But isn't that against Blizzard's Terms of Use?

In NA/EU, it's frowned upon to buy/sell accounts or gold. However in China, WoW is operated by NetEase and there are different rules surrounding the game.

It's actually perfectly acceptable and quite common for players to share accounts, buy/sell items, gold, or accounts, or convert virtual gold/items into real world money. WoW gold is really just another common commodity in China and can be bought or sold quite easily. =]

Recently, the Chinese government had announced that they are "banning gold farmers" with new legislation. However, it's been exaggerated by news outlets and there are tons of loop holes in their proposed system. In fact, their new laws will have no impact on gold farming at all (it's actually targeting something else).. and they don't even have any enforcement measures for the buying and selling of in-game virtual items.

China Banning Gold Farmers
Gold Farming Confusion
Gold Farming Ban Not Really A Ban

In NA/EU, you may have a difficult time trying to find trust-worthy gold sellers, or someone to sell your account to. It's all very shady, the services are few and far between, and it can be a challenge to find someone you can trust.

In China, however, it's the exact opposite. There are large (and trusted) businesses and corporations that focus on the sale and purchasing of virtual items. Gold or items can be bought at gaming stores, convenience stores and city streets.

QQ Coins can also be used in exchange for gold or in-game services, which can be converted into real merchandise on many online or gaming stores. Occasionally, you may also receive a random whisper from a gold seller in-game. They give you their QQ (IM) address and you can pay them with QQ points which can be obtained with real money. The Chinese Ebay "Taobao" and other Chinese websites sell gold online directly to your WoW mailbox too. =]

There's no secret "cloak-and-dagger" activities (like in NA/EU) required to sell your account or gold - it's all done right out in public and it's very much the norm.

I'm actually kind of jealous. I have over 300k of gold idling that I'd love to sell. =]

"The most common way to buy gold, however, is to trade time card codes in-game for gold to a person who needs a card. It's entirely possible to never pay any of your own money to play WoW if your dedicated to earning gold from others and have a niche as either a raider or power level or farmer." (Source)

Because of this standard industry in China, it's the reason why so many players are engaged in gold farming activities (if a couple hours playing WoW paid more than your real job, wouldn't you take advantage?), gold has real value, and it has completely reshaped the in-game and real world economies in China.

Because of this paradigm shift, players also engage in gold making "services" that you wouldn't normally see on NA/EU realms. And it's also very easy for new characters to be power leveled and geared up (15 rmb/$2 USD right now can buy you high-end epics and many hours of power-leveling.)

But more on those unique "gold making services" in the Part 5.

World of Warcraft China: Interesting Facts - Part 3

Posted by Daeity On Tuesday, August 17, 2010

As most of you know, China uses a different WoW subscription model then the rest of the world. They pay by the hour using game cards (that can be recharged) and they only pay for what they play.

In China, WoW can be downloaded for free and WoW gamecards can be bought virtually anywhere - game stores, online, 7 Eleven, corner stores, etc. 30 yuan will buy you 4000 minutes of gametime and 15 yuan will buy you 2000 minutes of gametime. That's $0.06 per hour played.

(If adjusted for Purchasing Power Parity (PPP) however, that's about equivalent to $0.24 per hour in the US.)

For that same amount (30 yuan), that can also buy you approximately 2000G. So, it's very common for players to sell their gold to purchase WoW hourly subscriptions, but I'll talk more on that later.

Although Korea and Taiwan are in East Asia, they pay monthly based subscriptions just like NA and Europe. Although, Koreans also have an added pay-by-the-day option ($1.65 per day vs $8 per month) for Starcraft 2 or they can play for free if they have a WoW Subscription. =]

NetEase Operating Costs

According to NetEase, they spend approximately $146,000 per day to maintain their servers. That's $4.44M per month on average.

By comparison, Blizzard US spends $4.25 million per month to operate their own servers.

There are approximately 489 realms total in US and EU, 39 in Taiwan, 33 in Korea, and 342 realms in China. At the time of initial testing, however, that China realm count was much lower. Those costs seem pretty high, but because they were done during testing phases, the figures have probably come down a little since then.

Total Number of CWOW Players?

Blizzard has never officially announced the total number of players from each geography, but rather an all encompassing "11.5M" figure.

Because of the low subscription fee (6 cents per hour), you might be thinking that Blizzard can easily pad the numbers. For example, there might be 3 million players that only play 1 hour a week. But the studies mentioned in the earlier post involved tens-to-hundreds of thousands of average players and several million data points. So their average estimates would be pretty close.. but even then, that's why the use of specific words (estimates and averages) are so important. =]

Now according to NetEase, World of Warcraft makes up about one-third of NetEase's total online gaming revenue. NetEase also provides online game services for Fantasy Westward Journey, Westward Journey Online II, Westward Journey Online III, Tianxia II and Datang.

NetEase Total Online Gaming Revenue (in $USD)

Quarter Ending March 31, 2010
Gross Profit: $172.32 million
Total Revenue: $159.0 million
NetEase WoW Revenue: $53 million
Blizzard's Licensing Fees: $29 million

Quarter Ending June 30, 2010
Gross Profit: $175.72 million
Total Revenue: $162.4 million
NetEase WoW Revenue: $54.1 million
Blizzard's Licensing Fees: $30 million

Note: Depending on the terms of the contact, Blizzard's royalties (55%) can either be based on net revenue or gross profits. I'm using the lesser figure in my calculations (to favor Blizzard once again.) Blizzard also collects a $25 million flat licensing fee and minimal annual revenue shares of $180 million from NetEase. They got a pretty sweet deal by going with NetEase instead of The9 - they were only giving Blizzard a 22% royalty.

By going by the most recent revenue numbers, and the fact that the average WoW player puts in 4 hours per day:

28h per week = 121.24 hours per month x 3 months = 363.72 hours per quarter = $21.82 per quarter spent by the average CWOW player (~$7.27 per month)

That's approx. 2.6 million players in March and 2.7 million players in June.

Previous figures put the worldwide WoW population around 6.7 million active subscribers (versus 11.5M), but that was assuming an average of $15 per month. Let's plug these new numbers in to get a more accurate subscriber count.

Blizzard Gross Profits: $301.75 million (incl. royalties)
Blizzard Operating Costs: $12.75 million
Blizzard Net Revenue: $259 million (excluding China)

At a rate of $15 per month, that means that there are 6.0 million players.

However, WoW Europe pays 12.99€ (~$25 USD) per month. And there are much more EU players than NA, so that number is fairly inflated and Blizzard is probably making somewhere closer to $20 per month per subscription on average.

At a rate of $20 per month, that means that there are 4.5 million subscriptions outside of China.

That's a maximum total of 7.2 million players worldwide during the quarter ending June 30. (Note: This figure does not include the banned vs. growth rate figures or the sale of services - hence the reason why it is a maximum figure. I'm just looking at the range between $15-20 per month in subscriptions only, however retail/digital sales and services are a HUGE portion of their revenue but are not included. Because of this, the number of players are much less than approximated above.)

World of Warcraft China: Interesting Facts - Part 2

Posted by Daeity On Monday, August 16, 2010

Number of Players and Average Game Time

Current estimates (another) put China's user base at approx. 4 million players (out of Blizzard's claimed 11.5 million "Active Subscribers").

Although many users had migrated to Taiwan realms for WOTLK and less hassles, it's interesting to note that Blizzard's revenues were much higher on average during the quarters when fees were not collected in China. (During that same time, Blizzard stated that their player counts were the same.) I'm guessing that not many players had moved back to the China realms during that time.

Most recently, 16,000 WoW players interviewed by stated that ~44% intended to return to CWOW servers, ~25% intended to keep playing on TWOW servers, and ~30% were giving up the game (e.g. tired of the drama, there are plenty more games out there, etc.)

To The Blizzard Employee Reading This:

Please tell your superiors to open up server transfers between all geographies (e.g. US to China, Taiwan to China, China to Taiwan, etc.) You can claim that this is all your idea and create a return-on-investment case detailing how this project will increase player growth in all geographies, is excellent for public relations, significantly improve customer loyalty, and how Blizzard can make tons of revenue in additional services for a process that is very simple and inexpensive. (You'll probably even get a promotion or pay raise out of this. Yay. But hurry up, plenty of other Blizzard employees regular this blog.)

In regards to average game time by WoW players in China, there haven't been as many studies as I was hoping. But here's a summary of what does exist:

- A 2006 Study from Research and Consultancy Firm Niko Partners stated users in China averaged 4 hours per day.
- A 2006 Morgan-Stanley Study (as per IDC) stated that user in China averaged 3-5 hours per day.
- A 2007 "Assessment of U.S. and Chinese Online Gaming Environments" stated that the average user in China averaged 5 hours per day.
- And finally in 2010, a very recent study (June 30 to be exact) stated similar findings to those above but also added that approx. 20% of players play 5 to 8 hours per day and approx. 22% play for more than 8 hours per day!

Those are 3 independent studies that claim 28 to 35 hours per week are spent. Other studies from blog webpages claim that the average is over 25 hours per week, but they were missing sources and citation. So, it's pretty safe to say that the average CWOW player puts in approximately 4-5 hours per day. I'll be using that figure for some upcoming calculations regarding monthly fees and total number of players.

As of right now, Chinese players have only been able to play The Burning Crusade since it was first launched in China on September 6, 2007 (8 months after the NA/EU release.)

There's been a lot of drama between government regulators, Blizzard, The9, and NetEase but it appears that WOTLK will finally see a release in China sometime within the next few months. (By comparison, NA/EU release date was Nov 13/08).

Here's a summary of the most recent WoW China activity after The9 lost their license to operate World of Warcraft.

Apr 2009 - The9 loses license to operate WoW
May 2009 - The9 sues Blizzard, also creates "World of Fight"
Jun 2009 - Servers offline (The9 -> NetEase)
Jul 2009 - Servers offline (The9 -> NetEase)
Aug 2009 - Servers offline (The9 -> NetEase)
Sep 2009 - Servers offline (The9 -> NetEase)
Oct 2009 - Servers back online
Nov 2009 - NetEase ordered to stop charging players and new registrations (deemed illegal).
Dec 2009 - Servers online
Jan 2010 - Servers online
Feb 7 2010 - NetEase attempts to re-approve TBC
Feb 8 2010 - NetEase ordered to halt new accounts again
Feb 12 2010 - Gave "approval to release" TBC in China (even though it was already out)
Mar 2010 - Subscriptions collected again & new players allowed
Apr 2010 - Business as usual
May 2010 - Business as usual
Jun 2010 - Business as usual
Jul 2010 - Business as usual
Aug 2010 - Announced that WOTLK would finally launch
For 7 months, they were not allowed to accept new players and for 4 months there was no revenue. There was practically no growth for a year. But, let's hope things stabilize for NetEase. (More information if you're interested in this.)

On an interesting note, WOTLK has been available on Taiwan realms (TWOW) for some time and many guilds and players have moved from their CWOW to TWOW servers due to their closer proximity and acceptable latency. Not just because of the WOTLK expansion pack, but also because of their ongoing issues on the CWOW servers (constant up-and-down, servers offline, new accounts being blocked, etc.)

There are also many Chinese players who have tried to make the move to US Realms for some of the same reasons (realm issues, wanting to get into new exp. packs), but they have met with new challenges.. other than bandwidth latency.

There is a very common misconception that if you're Chinese you're automatically a "Chinese Gold Farmer". Fact is, the number of "gold farmers" (under it's classic definition) is actually very low (1-2% of total Active Subscribers) and are actually located in your own realm's geography. But that doesn't stop Blizzard from banning China-based IP addresses without actually investigating the user.

Here's what Blizzard had to say on the matter:

"Chinese IP's are not blocked on the US or Taiwan realms, but sometimes accounts using IPs are banned due to large amounts of exploiters or gold sellers using the network. It's possible for some personal accounts to get blocked as well (highly unlikely) is where this probably stems from."

I think investigations should be based on a user-by-user basis, rather than just banning entire IP ranges because of some bad apples. Because of the amount of money involved too, most of these gold farming businesses in China buy dedicated US VPN servers for maximum bandwidth.

Consider this: If NA/EU realms were constantly crashing, down for maintenance for months at a time, new expansion packs were a year late (but released in China a year early), you never knew if the expansion pack would ever be approved by NA/EU government regulators or when they were going to shutdown the realms "for good this time", and there were ways to correct any latency issues, wouldn't you try to setup a CWOW account just so that you could play the game? And after all is said and done, wouldn't you just want to get your WoW fix and be free from labeling or harassment?

As it stands now, though, you may even want to signup on the CWOW servers right now once I explain some of the other interesting facts about CWOW (however you have to wait for the next parts of this article.) =]

* Update (08/20/10):
Here are direct links to the other parts of the article.

Part 2 - Average game time played by CWOW players.
Part 3 - Subscription model, and total number of CWOW players vs worldwide.
Part 4 - Gold has real value and easy to buy/sell.
Part 5 - Unique in-game services on China realms.
Part 6 - Overview of gameplay, culture, government regulations and censorship.
Part 7 - Census information, ratio of Alliance vs Horde, and PVP is uncommon.