In December, we reported on how Chinese players were doing prepared for the end of World of Warcraft (opens in new tab), as Blizzard’s 14-year publishing deal with NetEase comes to an end. All new sales of Blizzard games in the region have been suspended since late last year, and while Blizzard promised to find a solution for secure transfers, the continued operation of its games requires a new Chinese publishing partner.
It now seems inevitable that Blizzard’s games in China will stop working on January 23 when the current deal expires, after NetEase rejected a proposed six-month extension under the existing terms. Blizzard China said on Chinese microblogging site Weibo (through Reuters (opens in new tab)) that it had contacted NetEase about the renewal last week, but was rejected:
“It is unfortunate that NetEase is not willing to extend our game’s services for another six months on existing terms while we look for a new partner,” the statement said.
NetEase, a company built on the success of its licensed Blizzard games in its early days, has not commented. The publisher’s boss, William Ding, said last year there were “material differences in key areas” between the companies.
This has a wider context than just Blizzard and NetEase: all video games require a Chinese publisher and government licenses to operate in the region, and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has increasingly focused on the content of foreign titles. In addition, in 2021, the CCP will limit the amount of time children can spend on games to one hour per day on Fridays, weekends, and holidays. Which is not the ideal situation for a robbery party.
Whether Blizzard will be able to find another publishing partner in the region remains to be seen, and there’s no sign yet of the promised solution to player rescues (although if the games don’t come back, that might be a moot point). point). The publisher’s games have always been hugely popular in China, and you’d think money would talk, but the unknowable element here is whether it just fell apart with NetEase or if Blizzard is being pushed out of the Chinese market as part of a broader tendency.
I’ve reached out to Blizzard to ask about the situation, save transfers, and whether it expects its games to become active again in China, and I’ll update with any response.