Via BusinessWire, most Blizzard Entertainment games will suspend their services in China, which were published through NetEase. The games affected include World of Warcraft, Hearthstone, Warcraft III: Reforged, Overwatch, the Starcraft games, Diablo III and Heroes of the Storm.
The licensing agreement between Blizzard and NetEase for game publishing in China began in 2008, but the parties have since not come to a deal to renew the partnership, set to expire 23 January 2023. As such, new sales will be suspended in the coming days, with more details for Chinese players to follow. That said, the release of expansions and updates – namely, World of Warcraft: Dragonflight, Hearthstone: March of the Lich King, season 2 of Overwatch 2 – will still proceed.
It’s worth mentioning that the service for Diablo: Immortal in China has not been affected due to a separate co-development and publishing deal between Blizzard and NetEase.
“We’re immensely grateful for the passion our Chinese community has shown throughout the nearly 20 years we’ve been bringing our games to China through NetEase and other partners. Their enthusiasm and creativity inspire us, and we are looking for alternatives to bring our games back to players in the future.”
When it comes to developing / publishing games in China, there is strict due process in order for games to make it into the country. This can run the whole lengthy gamut of getting the game approved by the government, having a partner within China who can publish it for you, if the government hasn’t frozen approvals to enable the start of the vetting process to even begin with. You can read about Neon Doctrine’s CCO, Co-Founder Vladyslav Tsypljak’s personal experience about that here.
With the news, it would seem that NetEase’s stock is dropping – as much as 10% – and potentially even more as the day continues. Whether or not the companies will manage to strike another agreement before the expiration is one thing; gamers and investors would surely be wondering if someone else will be up to the task, and how potentially disruptive any transition period could be.
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