Blizzard Entertainment will stop selling most of its games in China “in the coming days” and all associated game services will be suspended on January 23 next year due to the expiration of a licensing agreement with NetEase.
No licensing agreements mean that 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 explains why World of Warcraft mobile games were canceled in August.
Blizzard has partnered with NetEase since 2008 to allow access to its games in mainland China. However, negotiations to renew the licensing deal did not go 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 made a great effort and sincerely tried to negotiate with Activision Blizzard so that we can continue our cooperation and serve the many dedicated players in China. However, there were substantial differences on key terms and we could not reach a agreement. We hold our product and operational standards in high regard and respect our commitments to Chinese players.”
Mike Ybarra, president of Blizzard Entertainment, said that an alternative partnership is being sought(Opens in a new window)and that “We are immensely grateful for the passion our Chinese community has shown during the nearly 20 years that we have brought our games to China through NetEase and other partners”
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Blizzard has confirmed that World of Warcraft: Dragonflight, Hearthstone: March of the Lich King, and Overwatch 2 Season 2 will still release 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 covered under a separate agreement.
This seems like a bigger blow to Blizzard than to NetEase, with NetEase stating that revenue generated by Blizzard’s games was “low single digits as a percentage” of the company’s total revenue and net revenue. Blizzard, meanwhile, needs to find another Chinese game publisher with whom it can agree terms to bring its games back to market.
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