Blizzard games set to be pulled in China after dispute with NetEase over license

Blizzard games are set to shut down in China after it failed to reach an agreement with current license holder NetEase to renew its current deal, it said.

When the current deal ends on January 23, World of Warcraft, Hearthstone, Warcraft III: Reforged, Overwatch, the StarCraft series, Diablo 3, and The Heroes of the Storm will be suspended.

Blizzard Entertainment has had licensing agreements with NetEase since 2008. Co-development and publishing of Diablo Immortal is covered by a separate agreement between the two companies and is unaffected.

In a statement, Blizzard claimed that it has not reached an agreement to extend the agreements “consistent with Blizzard’s operating principles and commitments to players and employees, and the agreements are scheduled to expire in January 2023.”

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“We’re very grateful for the passion our Chinese community has shown over the nearly 20 years we’ve been bringing our games to China through NetEase and other partners,” said Mike Ybarra, president of Blizzard Entertainment. “Their enthusiasm and creativity inspire us, and we’re looking at alternatives to bring our games back to players in the future.”

In a statement of its own, NetEase claimed there were “material differences in key terms,” ​​citing the protection of Chinese gamers’ “data and assets.”

“We have tried very hard and tried with the utmost sincerity to negotiate with Activision Blizzard so that we can continue our cooperation and serve the many dedicated gamers in China,” said William Ding, CEO of NetEase.

“However, there were significant disagreements on key terms and we could not agree. We attach great importance to our product and operational standards and honor our commitments to Chinese players.

“We are honored to have had the privilege of serving our players over the past 14 years and shared many precious moments with them during that time. We will continue our promise to serve our players well until the last minute. We will ensure that our players’ data and assets are well protected across all our games.”

NetEase claimed that the expiration of the Blizzard deal would have “no material impact” on its financial results and that net revenue and contribution to net income from licensed Blizzard games represented a “low single-digit percentage” of its total net revenue and net income in 2021 and into the first nine months of 2022.

The company’s head of partnerships, Simon Zhu, offered a more blunt assessment on social media, claiming, “One day when you can learn what happened behind the scenes, developers and players will have a whole new understanding of how.” high the damage an idiot can do.”

Earlier this year, it was alleged that Blizzard and NetEase had dropped an unannounced World of Warcraft mobile game following a financial dispute.