What you need to know
- Blizzard will suspend several of its games in China since it cannot reach an agreement with publisher NetEase.
- Simon Zhu, the president of NetEase, took to LinkedIn to criticize Blizzard, citing (sic) "how much damage a jerk can make."
- The end of the partnership between Blizzard and NetEase does not affect Diablo Immortal, which is under a separate long-term licensing deal.
Gamers in China will soon lose access to the vast majority of Blizzard's Windows PC and mobile games. The gaming giant will suspend most of its game services in mainland China on January 23, 2023. World of Warcraft, Hearthstone, Overwatch 2, Diablo III, the StarCraft series, and other titles will be affected by the move. Activision Blizzard explained the situation in a recent post.
In short, Blizzard Entertainment has had a licensing agreement with NetEase since 2008. The companies could not come to an agreement "that is consistent with Blizzard’s operating principles and commitments to players and employees," according to Activision Blizzard. As a result, players in China will lose access to a long list of titles.
In response to the announcement, NetEase President shared his thoughts on LinkedIn (opens in new tab):
"As a gamer who spent ten thousand hours in the world of Azeroth, starcraft and overwatch, I feel so heartbroken as I will no longer have the access to my account and memories next year. (sic)
One day, when what has happened behind the scene could be told, developers and gamers will have a whole new level understanding of how much damage a jerk can make.
Feel terrible for players who lived in those worlds."
It's not clear who Zhu believes is a "jerk" at Blizzard, as he did not specify. Some, including The Verge's Tom Warren, suspect that Zhu referred to Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick in his post.
Blizzard will suspend new sales in China over the next few days. The company promised more details about the effect the suspension will have on Chinese players.
Blizzard explained that the upcoming releases of World of Warcraft: Dragonflight, Hearthstone: March of the Lich King, and season 2 of Overwatch 2 will all go forward later this year in existing markets, although China will not be among them. However, the end of Blizzard and NetEase's partnership does not extend to the oft-criticized Diablo Immortal, which is under a separate long-term licensing agreement.
Our sources within Blizzard have expressed their dismay over the implementation of Diablo Immortal's monetization systems in the past — with some laying blame on NetEase for their aggressiveness and likeness to real money gambling with real money. Regardless, the end of Blizzard's services in China will be a major blow to the company's bottom line, and fans therein as well. Games like World of Warcraft are heavily censored in the country, but they remain popular despite the draconian laws around games and Western IP in general.
Microsoft has notably cited mobile gaming and China as a big reason for its attempt to merge with Activision Blizzard, and this whole ordeal is likely going to put a wrench in the works. Despite this, Blizzard's games remain monstrously popular elsewhere throughout the world. Blizzard's next big games to launch include Diablo IV across Xbox and PC, with on-going updates to Overwatch 2, and a huge World of Warcraft expansion dubbed Dragonflight due to launch in the coming weeks. Sadly, Chinese gamers will miss out.
Sean Endicott brings nearly a decade of experience covering Microsoft and Windows news to Windows Central. He joined our team in 2017 as an app reviewer and now heads up our day-to-day news coverage. If you have a news tip or an app to review, hit him up at email@example.com (opens in new tab).
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