As WoW returns to China, NetEase has placed a $14,000 bounty on reports that see cheat peddlers punished by law

An image of a Pandaren and a Gnome taunting their enemies in World of Warcraft's new Battle Royale mode, Plunderstorm.
(Image credit: Blizzard Entertainment)

World of Warcraft's returning to China after over a year spent in the dark due to squabbles with NetEase, the company that publishes several Blizzard games in the country. They've patched things up, though, and will be bringing the main MMO back August 1 alongside a pre-patch for upcoming expansion The War Within.

As spotted by WoWHead, however, NetEase has aspirations to fully deputise its player base—aiming to nip an influx of cheaters, hackers, and altogether unscrupulous types in the bud. Alongside World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King Classic's return to NetEase's library, players have been called upon to "purify the environment of Azeroth", as per a machine-translated news post.

There are a few bounties to pursue here. At the end of each week in July, NetEase will be keeping track of the most prodigious narcs via a weekly leaderboard—then, at the end of each month, the top-ranking players will receive a payout to their account. For example, those bringing home the proverbial chicken dinner at the #1 spot will receive 1,288 points to spend on in-game goodies.

NetEase has gone one step further, however: "In addition to combating in-game misconduct, we will also crack down on the production, sale, and distribution of hacks." NetEase proceeds to promise players who "help the national team cooperate with the police to file a case" a reward of up to CN¥100,000, which is almost $14,000. Not too shabby.

While this might sound outlandish, it should be noted that distributing, creating, and using hacks is often punished by jail time in China. As shared by a Vice report from 2021, for example, a group of five hackers were sentenced to six to nine months in the slammer for developing cheats used in the country's PUBG mobile equivalent, Peacekeeper Elite, in 2020.

A year later, operation "Chicken Drumstick" saw 17 websites, 10 resellers, and an asset seizure worth around $46 million occur. In the same year, a cheating empire with an estimated worth of $77 million was also shuttered by the Chinese authorities. The idea that NetEase is treating this as serious business—and is likely to make its money back on any payout it gives—isn't at all surprising. In an age of internet pirates, it only tracks that you'd get privateers.

Harvey Randall
Staff Writer

Harvey's history with games started when he first begged his parents for a World of Warcraft subscription aged 12, though he's since been cursed with Final Fantasy 14-brain and a huge crush on G'raha Tia. He made his start as a freelancer, writing for websites like Techradar, The Escapist, Dicebreaker, The Gamer, Into the Spine—and of course, PC Gamer. He'll sink his teeth into anything that looks interesting, though he has a soft spot for RPGs, soulslikes, roguelikes, deckbuilders, MMOs, and weird indie titles. He also plays a shelf load of TTRPGs in his offline time. Don't ask him what his favourite system is, he has too many.