Skeletons Censored From Chinese Version of 'World of Warcraft'

Bones and skeletons have disappeared from the Chinese version of the popular online fantasy game, World of Warcraft, sparking fierce criticism from the nation's army of players, Xinhua news agency said on Tuesday.

Chinese mainland gamers have waited half a year longer than their U.S. counterparts for the upgraded version of WoW, only to find the appearances of familiar skeletons have been fleshed out.

The skeletons, regular characters, grow flesh in the new version and the bones symbolizing dead characters have been changed to graves.

A member of staff with the public relations department of The9, which runs WoW in China, was quoted by a Guangzhou-based newspaper as saying the changes were made according to "China's particular situation and relevant regulations."

"It's to promote a healthy and harmonious online environment," the anonymous staff member said.

However, Zhao Yurun, public relations director of The9, told Xinhua the changes were made as part of an "operational strategy."

Some gamers thought the changes made the game dull and voiced their scorn on the official WoW Web site, filling more than 10 pages with criticism.

More than 500 gamers signed a post, announcing they would boycott the game. "Why should we accept the so-called 'good appearance' without the opportunity of being consulted?" Xinhua quoted player "Cai Xu" as saying.

"We don't need such harmony," wrote "Xue Linglong."

The monster-killing game, first launched by California-based Blizzard Entertainment in 2004, is one of the most popular online role-playing games involving multiple players.

China has urged Internet companies to clean up Web sites and offer only legal and "healthy" content. In April, China announced a new campaign against Internet pornography that would also take aim at fraud, illegal lotteries and "rumor-spreading" to protect the country's mainly young Internet users from "negative online influences."