Blizzard Entertainment will stop selling the majority of its games in China “in the coming days,” and any associated game services are being suspended on Jan. 23 next year due to a licensing agreement with NetEase expiring.
No licensing agreement means World of Warcraft, Hearthstone, Warcraft III: Reforged, Overwatch, Diablo III, Heroes of the Storm, and the StarCraft series will no longer be available in China. This also accounts for why the World of Warcraft mobile games was cancelled back in August.
Blizzard has been working in partnership with NetEase since 2008 to allow access to its games in mainland China. However, negotiations to renew their licensing deal have not gone well and ultimately no agreement was reached in time to continue the partnership.
In a statement(Opens in a new window), William Ding, CEO of NetEase said:
“We have put in a great deal of effort and tried with our utmost sincerity to negotiate with Activision Blizzard so that we could continue our collaboration and serve the many dedicated players in China. However, there were material differences on key terms and we could not reach an agreement. We hold high regard in our product and operational standards and abide by our commitments to Chinese players.”
Mike Ybarra, president of Blizzard Entertainment, said an alternative partnership is being sought(Opens in a new window), and that, “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”
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Blizzard confirmed that World of Warcraft: Dragonflight, Hearthstone: March of the Lich King, and the second season of Overwatch 2 will still be released as planned later this year, although I can’t see how they can be released in China now. Diablo Immortal, which is a co-development with NetEase, will continue to be available as it’s covered under a separate agreement.
This seems like a bigger blow for Blizzard than it is for NetEase, with NetEase stating the revenue generated from Blizzard’s games were “low single digits as a percentage” of the company’s total net revenues and income. Blizzard, meanwhile, needs to find another Chinese games publisher it can agree terms with to get its games back on the market.
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