World of Warcraft publisher Blizzard Entertainment may be reconsidering its relationship with its Chinese partner The9 Interactive, according to a statement made by the company late last week.
In a press release issued on Thursday, Blizzard said it is "actively exploring and discussing cooperation opportunities and further expansion of its business with local potential partners for mainland China".
That's despite an existing agreement with The9, which currently handles World of Warcraft's distribution and infrastructure in the region.
The company said it had "invited" The9 to "negotiate" the forthcoming release of World of Warcraft expansion The Burning Crusade, which is due out in China in 2007.
Although there's no direct suggestion Blizzard will sever its ties with The9, which it called "the most talented MMO operator in China" when it announced the agreement last June, the release implies the Chinese firm is by no means a shoe-in as far as Blizzard's future plans are concerned.
Last month, it emerged that Chinese players of the hugely successful MMOG have staged protests over what is perceived as poor customer service and overloaded servers for the game.
Future details on Blizzard's plans for China "will be revealed at a later date", the release stated.
Last July, Blizzard announced that it had surpassed 1.5 million paying Chinese customers, with the Chinese customer base thought to contribute significantly to the figure of five million worldwide players announced at the end of 2005.
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