Blizzard Entertainment is pulling its games out of China

Blizzard Entertainment will stop selling the majority of its games in China “in the coming days,” and all related game services will be suspended on January 23 next year due to an expiring license agreement with NetEase.

No license agreement means World of Warcraft, Hearthstone, Warcraft III: Reforged, Overwatch, Diablo III, Heroes of the Storm, and the StarCraft series will no longer be available in China. This also explains why the World of Warcraft mobile games were canceled back in August.

Blizzard has worked with NetEase since 2008 to provide access to its games in mainland China. However, negotiations to extend the license agreement have not gone well and ultimately no agreement was reached in time to continue the partnership.

In an opinion(Opens in a new window)said William Ding, CEO of NetEase:

“We have tried very hard and tried with the utmost sincerity to negotiate with Activision Blizzard so that we can continue our cooperation and serve the many dedicated players in China. However, there were significant differences on key terms and we were unable to reach agreement. We attach great importance to our product and operational standards and honor our commitments to Chinese players.”

Mike Ybarra, President of Blizzard Entertainment, said an alternative partnership is being sought(Opens in a new window)and that: “We are immensely grateful for the passion our Chinese community has shown over the nearly 20 years that we have brought our games to China through NetEase and other partners.”

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Blizzard has confirmed that World of Warcraft: Dragonflight, Hearthstone: March of the Lich King, and Overwatch 2 Season 2 will still release as planned later this year, although I don’t see how they can release in China now. Diablo Immortal, a co-development with NetEase, will continue to be available as it is covered by a separate agreement.

This appears to be a bigger blow to Blizzard than NetEase, as NetEase says revenue from Blizzard’s games was “in the low single-digit percentage” of the company’s total net revenue and earnings. Blizzard, meanwhile, needs to find another Chinese game publisher with whom it can agree terms to get its games back to market.

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