Blizzard Entertainment has announced that it is “suspending” most of its games in China in the coming months due to the company’s deal with NetEase reaching an end.
The gaming giant said in a news release that its deal with NetEase ends on January 23, 2023, and at that time, titles like World of Warcraft, Hearthstone, Overwatch, Diablo III, Heroes of the Storm, Warcraft III: Reforged, and Diablo III will be taken offline. Diablo Immortal will stay up, as it’s covered under a separate deal between Blizzard and NetEase.
Blizzard and NetEase started their licensing deal for games in 2008, but the two companies failed to reach a deal to renew the agreement, Blizzard said in a statement. Blizzard said it couldn’t come to terms with NetEase for a deal that would be “consistent with Blizzard’s operating principles and commitments to players and employees.”
New sales of the games mentioned above (except for Diablo Immortal) will be suspended in the coming days, and Blizzard will inform affected players about the process soon.
World of Warcraft: Dragonflight, Hearthstone: March of the Lich King, and Overwatch Season 2 will still go forward as planned later in 2022.
Blizzard president Mike Ybarra said the company is exploring “alternatives” to bring the affected games back to players in China in the future. No further details were shared, however.
Simon Zhu, the president of global investment and partnerships for NetEase, reacted to the news in a statement on LinkedIn. Zhu said there is more to the story.
“One day, when what has happened behind the scene[s] could be told, developers and gamers will have a whole new level understanding of how much damage a jerk can make,” Zhu said.
Microsoft is in the process of attempting to acquire Activision Blizzard and all of its studios and franchises, including all of the ones mentioned here.
Western companies often work with a local partner when doing business in China, so it seems if Blizzard and NetEase cannot come to terms, Blizzard might seek a different associate. There is also the possibility that Blizzard is intentionally making this shutdown announcement loudly and publicly as a bargaining tactic to help encourage NetEase to make a deal. Time will tell.