Blizzard and NetEase to Suspend Gaming Services in China

Blizzard Entertainment, Inc. has stated during a press release on Wednesday that most gaming services from the company will be suspended in mainland China on January 23, 2023. This is largely due to the expiration of the current contract with NetEase, Inc.

The games that will have services suspended include World of Warcraft, Hearthstone, Warcraft III: Reforged, Overwatch, Diablo III, Heroes of the Storm, and the entirety of the StarCraft series.

The mobile game Diablo Immortal is co-developed and published under a separate licensing agreement, and thus will not be effected at this time.

Blizzard and NetEase entered into a partnership in 2008, with NetEase covering the publication of Blizzard titles in China.

Mike Ybarra, president of Blizzard Entertainment, had this to say on the partnership:

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. Their enthusiasm and creativity inspire us, and we are looking for alternatives to bring our games back to players in the future.

Mike Ybarra

New sales of these games will be suspended in the very near future, according to Blizzard, and Chinese players will be notified on the finer details such as save data, reimbursements, and more.

Upcoming releases, such as World of Warcraft: Dragonflight, Hearthstone: March of the Lich King, and season 2 of Overwatch 2 will still come later this year, says Blizzard.

Blizzard Entertainment, Inc. was acquired by game developer and publisher Activision in 2008, with the company becoming Activision Blizzard that July. In addition to the games listed, the game company also produces the Call of Duty, Crash Bandicoot, Guitar Hero, Tony Hawk, and Spyro franchises; Candy Crush Saga and other games from the developer King have been a part of Activision Blizzard since 2016.

Earlier this year, Microsoft announced intentions to acquire Activision Blizzard for $68.7 billion USD; the acquisition is still pending approval.

NetEase was founded in 1997, and focuses not just on PC and mobile games, but also advertising services, email, and e-commerce platforms in China. Along with the games from Blizzard Entertainment, NetEase also publishes the Westward Journey series, Tianxia III, and Heroes of Tang Dynasty Zero.

While it is unfortunate that these Blizzard titles are being suspended in China, it does appear that Blizzard is seeking a way to bring them back to the market in the near future, should another deal be made with NetEase or another Chinese game company. It is unknown, but the recent attempt at acquisition by Microsoft may have factored into the agreement falling through.

What are your feelings on this news? Do you have any speculations as to why the fourteen-year partnership is now coming to an end? Tell us your thoughts in the comment section below and on our social media feeds!

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Source: Activision, Blizzard

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