UPDATE June 9, 2013: For a brief time, the Chinese Battle.Net website was changed to more closely resemble the US and Taiwan versions, including replacing Raynor’s icon in the SCII logo with Kerrigan as a way to promote Heart of the Swarm. However, it was quickly changed back to the original layout, likely because a recent NetEase announcement stated that HoTS had not been “fully approved”. The vice-president of NetEase, Li Riqiang, and the Chinese Regional President of Blizzard, Alex, said in a press interview, “As a matter of fact, ‘Heart of the Swarm’ has not been fully approved. In addition to the Ministry of Culture, other government bureaus still need to audit it.” When asked if the game was otherwise ready for release, Alex said, “After approval, there will be a lot of follow-up work to do, so we probably won’t be releasing it right after the audit concludes.”
Tencent Games News reported today that, according to the Ministry of Culture online games content review report which was only recently made public, Starcraft 2: Heart of the Swarm expansion has been approved for mainland release. NetEase, Starcraft’s operator in China, has not given an official release date, though Tencent speculates that it should be out “soon”. Other gamer news outlets, like Games.QQ and Gamer Sky, have reported the same, with a screencap of the report in question. In order to draw more players to Heart of the Swarm, the expansion will be free to players who already own Wings of Liberty (a cost of about $15). After upgrading, players can also invite twenty-four non-paying players to join and experience game content. Though the upgrade is free, Chinese users will still need to pay a monthly subscription to play.
The “global” release of Heart of the Swarm was March 12 of this year, causing some despair among mainland players as China isn’t considered a part of “global” releases. Now, however, few players are excited about the upcoming domestic release. As one blogger put it, “We’ve waited too long… The passion is gone.” Other users said they weren’t excited because nobody knows what has been “harmonized” (aka: censored) in the Chinese version, and sarcastically referred to the Ministry of Culture as the “gods of harmony”.