Blizzard is taking most of its games offline in China

What just happened? China’s gaming market, already one of the most restricted in the world due to government rules and regulations, has lost a huge chunk of titles after most of Blizzard’s games went out of business. The US giant has failed to renew licensing agreements with local partner NetEase, spelling the end of World of Warcraft, Overwatch 2, Diablo and more in China.

It was back in november when a blizzard announce Its agreement with NetEase that has allowed it to publish games in mainland China since 2008 will expire on January 23, 2023, after the parties failed to reach an agreement to renew the license. Blizzard said at the time that it could not reach an agreement that complied with its “principles of operation and obligations to players and employees”.

Blizzard last month tried to extend the deal by six months so players could continue accessing its games while it searches for a new publishing partner, but translation of Blizzard’s post on the World of Warcraft Wowhead site (via the edge) that NetEase did not accept its proposal to extend the service agreement after “extensive negotiations”.

NetEase responded to Blizzard’s allegations on the same site with the following terse statement:

For unknown reasons, last week Blizzard solicited NetEase with an offer of a so-called six-month game service extension and other terms, and made it clear that it would not stop continuing negotiations with other potential partners during the contract extension. As far as we know, Blizzard’s negotiations with other companies during the same period were based on a three-year contract. Given the lack of reciprocity, injustice and other conditions associated with cooperation, so the two parties could not reach an agreement in the end.

NetEase also accused Blizzard of trying to take advantage of the company, comparing its behavior to a divorce but still trying to live together. The whole situation looks as bitter as a marriage breakup: NetEase employees were recently filmed dismantling a Warcraft Gorehowl statue at its park.

Affected games include World of Warcraft, Hearthstone, Warcraft III: Reforged, Overwatch, the StarCraft series, Diablo III, and Heroes of the Storm, all of which are very popular in China. The loss of access (legally) affected teams in e-leagues and proved particularly difficult for many WoW players in the country. “It wasn’t just a game,” a Weibo user wrote. “It was also the memory of a whole generation.”

Blizzard insists that deactivating its servers in China does not mean that players in the country are permanently cut off from its games; Rather, this is an “unhappy temporary hold”. The company is still in talks with “many potential partners who share our values” for Blizzard’s titles to return to China. It even advised players to restore their saved game data when (or if) the games became accessible again.

Players in China can still play Diablo Immortal. NetEase said the mobile/PC title was not affected as it was jointly developed by China’s Tencent and is covered by a separate licensing agreement.

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