Blizzard is moving most of its games offline in China

What happened now? China’s gaming market, already one of the most stringent in the world due to government regulations and regulations, has lost a significant portion of games after most Blizzard games went offline. The American giant was unable to renew licensing agreements with local partner NetEase, which meant the end of World of Warcraft, Overwatch 2, Diablo and other games in China.

It was back in November that Blizzard announced its agreement with NetEase, which had allowed it to publish games in mainland China since 2008, would expire on January 23, 2023, after both parties failed to reach an agreement to renew the license. Blizzard stated at the time that it was unable to reach an agreement consistent with its “operational principles and obligations to players and employees”.

Last month, Blizzard attempted to extend the deal by six months so that players could continue to access its games while the company looked for a new publishing partner, but Blizzard’s translation of a post on World of Warcraft’s Wowhead website (via edge) revealed that NetEase did not accept his offer to renew the service agreement after “lengthy negotiations”.

NetEase responded to Blizzard’s claims on the same site with the following brief statement:

For unknown reasons, Blizzard re-approached NetEase last week with the offer of the so-called six-month extension of the game service and other conditions, and also made it clear that it would not stop continuing negotiations with other potential partners during the contract renewal. . To the best of our knowledge, all of Blizzard’s negotiations with other companies during the same period were based on a three-year contract period. Thus, given the non-reciprocity, injustice and other conditions of cooperation, the parties could not eventually reach an agreement.

NetEase also accused Blizzard of trying to take advantage of the company, likening its behavior to divorce, but still trying to live together. The whole situation seems as bitter as a marital breakup: NetEase employees were recently caught on video dismantling the Warcraft Bloodhowl statue in their park.

Affected games include World of Warcraft, Hearthstone, Warcraft III: Reforged, Overwatch, the StarCraft series, Diablo III and Heroes of the Storm which are very popular in China. The loss of access (legally) has affected teams in esports leagues and has proven particularly difficult for many of the country’s WoW players. “It was not just a game. These were the memories of a whole generation,” wrote one Weibo user.

Blizzard insists that deactivating its servers in China does not mean players in the country will be permanently cut off from its games; rather, it is a “temporary discontented suspension”. The company continues to negotiate with “several potential partners who share our values” so that Blizzard games can return to China. Players are even informed that their saved game data will be restored when (or if) the games become available again.

Gamers in China can still play Diablo Immortal. NetEase said the mobile and PC title would not be affected as it was co-developed with Chinese company Tencent and is covered by a separate licensing agreement.

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