Blizzard Games Unplayable in China From January 23rd

Blizzard Entertainment and Chinese publisher NetEase fail to come to an agreement

By AlexJohn, Posted 18 Jan 2023

As of January 23rd, games developed by Blizzard Entertainment will be unavailable in China, after they failed to agree on terms with their Chinese publisher NetEase. Blizzard and NetEase first went into business together in 2008, the same year Blizzard merged with Activision, and it was announced that the fourteen-year partnership would come to an end in November 2022. At the time Blizzard Entertainment’s president Mike Ybarra wrote that the California-based developers were “immensely grateful for the passion our Chinese community has shown… Their enthusiasm and creativity inspire us, and we are looking for alternatives to bring our games back to players in the future.”

The suspended games include many of Blizzard’s largest brands: World of Warcraft, StarCraft, Hearthstone, Heroes of the Storm, Overwatch, and Diablo 3 are all affected.

NetEase, the second-largest publisher in China, wrote that there had been “material differences on key terms” between the two companies and that they would make sure players’ “data and assets are well protected”. Foreign developers usually require a Chinese publisher to release games in the country and Blizzard will be eager to find a new partner. For NetEase themselves, the news may not be too bad. While their agreement with Blizzard helped them grow in the first place, NetEase claims that the World of Warcraft developer’s games only represents “low single digits as a percentage of NetEase’s total net revenues and net income in 2021 and in the first nine months of 2022.” NetEase, who acquired video game auteur David Cage’s studio Quantic Dream in August 2022, went as far as saying their split from Blizzard Entertainment will have “no material impact on NetEase’s financial results.”

Diablo Immortal, Blizzard Entertainment, Activision Blizzard, NetEase, China, Blizzard Entertainment and Chinese publisher NetEase fail to come to an agreement, NoobFeed

No specific reason for the conclusion of NetEase and Blizzard’s partnership has been given, however, a Reuters source claims that NetEase “had proposed to make structural changes to the partnership that would affect Blizzard’s control over its intellectual property”. NetEase has reportedly denied the accusation.

Upcoming releases World of Warcraft: Dragonflight, Hearthstone: March of the Lich King, and Overwatch 2’s second season will not be affected. Neither will Diablo Immortal, which was co-developed and published “under a separate agreement between the two companies.”

On one side of the world trade commissions and regulators continue to push back against Microsoft’s acquisition of Activision Blizzard, and on the other side, Blizzard continues to search for a new Chinese publisher. It’s certainly a busy time to be an Activision Blizzard lawyer. 


Alex Johnson (@AlexJohnWriting)
News Editor, NoobFeed

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