Now it's official: NetEase will start publishing Blizzard Entertainment games in China again

World of Warcraft, Overwatch 2 and other Blizzard Entertainment games will return to the Chinese market this summer. The company has signed a new publishing agreement with NetEase.

Overwatch 2

It is not known on what terms the parties agreed.

In a message on Weibo, the companies explained that they cannot launch Chinese game servers right now, because technical problems need to be solved first. They promised that all user progress would be saved. The exact date of the return of the company's games will be announced later.

In addition, NetEase has entered into an agreement with Microsoft. They agreed to "explore the possibility of releasing new NetEase games on Xbox consoles and other platforms."

Timeline of the relationship between NetEase and Blizzard Entertainment

  • NetEase has been distributing Blizzard Entertainment games in China since 2008. She also made sure that the content in the titles complied with the strict rules adopted in the country, and made changes if necessary.
  • In November 2022, Blizzard Entertainment announced that it was unable to extend the publishing agreement with NetEase concerning all games except for the mobile Diablo Immortal - a separate long—term agreement was concluded for that. As a result, on January 23, 2023, the servers of World of Warcraft, Warcraft III: Reforged, Overwatch 2, Hearthstone, Heroes of the Storm, Diablo III and StarCraft series games were closed in China.
  • According to an investigation by The New York Times, the reason for the termination of cooperation could be a telephone conversation between the heads of NetEase and Activision Blizzard in October 2022. During the call, the head of NetEase allegedly said that his company could convince the Chinese authorities to support or reject the deal between Activision Blizzard and Microsoft, depending on the terms that will be in the new publishing agreement with Blizzard Entertainment. Activision Blizzard's management took these words as a threat, although perhaps there was no blackmail — the conversation was conducted through translators, and an error could occur. Activision Blizzard later demanded that NetEase pay it $500 million in advance, ostensibly in order to reduce the risks of potential pressure from the Chinese authorities.
  • After the shutdown of games in China, Blizzard Entertainment began looking for a new local partner. It was reported that she was negotiating with giants such as Tencent and ByteDance.
  • Blizzard Entertainment also asked NetEase to extend the agreement for six months during the search, but she refused. NetEase called the request outrageous and stated that the terms proposed to it did not take into account either the interests of NetEase or the interests of the players.
  • On February 1, 2023, NetEase began accepting refund requests from Chinese players. According to GameLook, more than a million people requested a refund in the first day alone. They asked for a refund of an average of 100 to 300 yuan (14.8-44.5 dollars).
  • In April 2023, Blizzard Entertainment received a lawsuit for 300 million yuan ($43.5 million) due to withdrawal from China. Initially, it was assumed that NetEase filed the lawsuit, but its author was a Chinese gamer.
  • In December 2023, Chinese media reported that Blizzard Entertainment and NetEase had decided to resume their partnership, but there was no evidence of this.

The news of the resumption of the partnership had a positive impact on NetEase shares. On the morning of April 10, they rose by 2.4%, Bloomberg calculated.

A source:

Business Wire
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