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World of Warcraft No Longer Rules in China

Waning PC gaming abroad is taking its toll on the longtime hit
World Joyland’s attractions resemble World of Warcraft locations
World Joyland’s attractions resemble World of Warcraft locationsPhotograph by Wu Kai CZ/ImagineChina

World Joyland is a Chinese theme park featuring centaurs and werewolves. It’s a weird homage to the online role-playing game World of Warcraft. Built in 2011, the park in Changzhou, several hours by high-speed train and shuttle bus from Shanghai, is filled with characters and attractions that look remarkably like those in the game developed by Activision Blizzard—with just enough changes that the Santa Monica (Calif.)-based software company, which hasn’t authorized the park to use them, can’t do much about it. The way things are going, World Joyland might want to look elsewhere for inspiration.

Activision’s hack-and-slasher PC game is still No. 1 worldwide with 8.3 million players at the end of last quarter, according to the company. But those numbers are down from 12 million players in October 2010, and Activision said in May that it lost 1.3 million users in the first quarter of 2013, largely in Asia. A July 2 report by investment bank T.H. Capital estimated that World of Warcraft users in China may increase slightly in the second quarter but warned that user engagement, measured by hours played, is likely to keep falling. The user drop-offs “raise concerns,” Activision said in a May 8 statement. The company declined requests for further comment.