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Blizzard and NetEase Suspending Game Services in China

Blizzard and NetEase Suspending Game Services in China

Some interesting news coming out of China this morning, game services for some of Blizzard’s titles are being suspended in China.

According to Blizzard, the license to operate in China for some of their popular titles is expiring. Netease has handled the operation of Blizzard titles in China since 2008.

Titles affected include World of Warcraft, Hearthstone, Warcraft III: Reforged, Overwatch, the StarCraft series, Diablo III, and Heroes of the Storm. Diablo Immortal has not been affected as that comes under a separate agreement.

The services are set to go offline on 23 January 2023 unless a new agreement between Blizzard and Netease can be reached. Releases of World of Warcraft: Dragonflight, Hearthstone: March of the Lich Kingand season 2 of Overwatch 2 will go ahead in China, however.

Blizzard Entertainment has had licensing agreements with NetEase since 2008, covering the publication of these Blizzard titles in China. The two parties have not reached a deal to renew the agreements that is consistent with Blizzard’s operating principles and commitments to players and employees, and the agreements are set to expire in January 2023.

We will suspend new sales in the coming days and Chinese players will be receiving details of how this will work soon. Upcoming releases for World of Warcraft: DragonflightHearthstone: March of the Lich King, and season 2 of Overwatch 2 will proceed later this year.

“We’re immensely grateful for the passion our Chinese community has shown throughout the nearly 20 years we’ve been bringing our games to China through NetEase and other partners,” said Mike Ybarra, president, Blizzard Entertainment. “Their enthusiasm and creativity inspire us, and we are looking for alternatives to bring our games back to players in the future.”

This is Blizzard being cautious while negotiations to continue their operations in China are ongoing, but they will no doubt be trying to drive a hard bargain as the Chinese market only makes up around 3% of their net revenues. Netease has responded to Blizzard’s decision to suspend services adding:

“After lengthy negotiations, we are still unable to agree on some key terms of cooperation with Activision Blizzard. We are very sorry that Activision Blizzard announced the termination of cooperation in advance today, and we will have to accept this decision. NetEase will continue to perform its duties and serve our players until the last moment.”

Whatever the outcome, Chinese players of the suspended titles will be hoping that something can be arranged before the 23 January deadline.

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