Blizzard Entertainment announced that, starting early next year, it will be suspending game services in China.
Its licensing agreements with Chinese game publisher NetEase will expire on January 23, 2023, and according to Blizzard, the company will not renew the agreement. The two companies were last renewed in 2019.
Blizzard said of the negotiations with NetEase: “The two parties failed to reach an agreement to renew the agreements in accordance with Blizzard’s operating principles and commitment to players and employees.” The company did not provide any further details, but Bloomberg reports ownership of player data and intellectual property is one of the difficult points for the parties to find common ground. There has also been tension between Blizzard and the Chinese authorities since the last extension that caused the two sides to become deeply disconnected.
Starting January 2023, Blizzard will suspend services for World of Warcraft, Warcraft III, Hearthstone, Overwatch 2, Starcraft, Heroes of the Storm, and Diablo III. The two companies collaborated in 2008 to launch several games in China including the aforementioned titles. The “father” of the Callo of Duty series also co-developed Diablo Immortal, this game will not be affected as it is in a separate agreement. Blizzard will suspend sales in China in the coming days.
Blizzard President Mike Ybarra expressed Blizzard’s appreciation for the Chinese gaming community and said the company is “looking for alternative solutions to bring the game back to Chinese gamers in the future.” “. According to a recent report by Newzoo, the Chinese market is no longer growing at the same pace as it once was, in part due to more restrictive regulations on gameplay time and new releases.
NetEase also posted a notice surrounding the termination of this partnership in its newsletter. The producer of Great Tang Wushuang admitted that the license to publish Blizzard titles in China is about to expire. During the years of releasing Blizzard games, NetEase has grown into one of China’s leading internet and online game service providers, ranking as the 5th largest game company. around the world, according to Newzoo. Activision Blizzard, which owns Blizzard, is ninth on the list.
“We have worked hard to negotiate with Activision Blizzard to continue serving Chinese players,” William Ding, CEO of NetEase, said in a statement. “However, there were important differences on key terms that prevented the two sides from reaching an agreement. We value our partners’ product and performance standards and adhere to our commitments to Chinese players.”
Ding added that NetEase has been honored to serve gamers who have loved Blizzard games for the past 14 years and hope all have good memories. Licensed Blizzard games make up a low percentage of NetEase’s total net sales and net income in 2021. For the first nine months of 2022, the company said the expiration of those licenses would have no effect. significant impact on NetEase’s financial results.