Microsoft Gaming's Blizzard Entertainment games are coming back to China thanks to a new deal with NetEase, while also 'exploring ways to bring more new titles to Xbox'

Overwatch 2
(Image credit: Activision Blizzard)

What you need to know

  • Blizzard Entertainment games were published in China with help from Chinese gaming company NetEase until 2022. 
  • The deal ended after relations between the companies reportedly soured, with NetEase president Simon Zhu blaming a "jerk" at Activision Blizzard. 
  • A new deal signed by Microsoft Gaming, Blizzard Entertainment, and NetEase will bring Blizzard's games back to China in summer 2024, including Overwatch 2 and World of Warcraft. 
  • The deal also sees Microsoft Gaming and NetEase exploring bringing NetEase games "to Xbox consoles and other platforms."

After a tumultuous past year, Blizzard Entertainment games are coming back to China. 

A new deal between Microsoft Gaming, Blizzard Entertainment, and NetEase will see Blizzard's library of titles restored to Chinese players later in the summer, including popular games like Overwatch 2 and World of Warcraft.

“We at Blizzard are thrilled to reestablish our partnership with NetEase and to work together, with deep appreciation for the collaboration between our teams, to deliver legendary gaming experiences to players in China,” said Johanna Faries, president of Blizzard Entertainment. 

“We are immensely grateful for the passion the Chinese community has shown for Blizzard games throughout the years, and we are focused on bringing our universes back to players with excellence and dedication.” 

William Ding, CEO and director at NetEase, added that “Celebrating our collaborations, we are thrilled to embark on the next chapter, built on trust and mutual respect, to serve our users in this unique community that we’ve built together.”

Blizzard Entertainment and NetEase previously partnered for years, with the latter assisting in publishing Blizzard's games in China — to publish a game in China, a foreign company is required to partner with a Chinese firm — before relations broke down in 2022, with game support suspended in January 2023 as NetEase president Simon Zhu blamed an unspecified "jerk" at Activision Blizzard. 

Microsoft Gaming and NetEase are exploring more titles for Xbox

After nearly two years of regulatory scrutiny, Microsoft acquired Activision Blizzard in October 2023 for $69 billion. The new deal signed between Microsoft Gaming, Blizzard Entertainment, and NetEase doesn't stop at bringing Blizzard's games back to China. NetEase and Microsoft will now be exploring bringing more NetEase games to Xbox. 

“Blizzard and NetEase have done incredible work to renew our commitment to players – Blizzard’s universes have been part of players’ lives in the region for many years. Returning Blizzard’s legendary games to players in China while exploring ways to bring more new titles to Xbox demonstrates our commitment to bringing more games to more players around the world,” said Phil Spencer, CEO of Microsoft Gaming.

While NetEase is primarily focused on maintaining online services for games, the company has also acquired a number of internal development studios. NetEase recently announced Marvel Rivals, an upcoming hero shooter that pulls in classic heroes and villains, which is slated to launch on Windows PC later in 2024.

Analysis: A restoration that makes sense

Blizzard Entertainment's games have a global audience, and millions of players in China provided no small part of that audience, so this new deal makes total sense. It's also interesting to see Microsoft Gaming and NetEase looking at bringing additional games to Xbox. 

While there's no specifics right now, I can definitely see Marvel Rivals launching on Xbox Series X|S sometime shortly after the PC version arrives. I can also see NetEase assisting with bringing some games to Microsoft's planned Xbox mobile storefront.

Samuel Tolbert
Freelance Writer

Samuel Tolbert is a freelance writer covering gaming news, previews, reviews, interviews and different aspects of the gaming industry, specifically focusing on Xbox and PC gaming on Windows Central. You can find him on Twitter @SamuelTolbert.