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Blizzard games like World of Warcraft and Hearthstone will soon be removed from China

This would effectively remove World of Warcraft, Diablo 3, Hearthstone, Warcraft III: Reforged, Overwatch, the StarCraft series, and The Heroes of the Storm from China. 

Blizzard games will soon be shut down in China after the publisher and current license holder NetEase could not come to an agreement over renewing their deal. The current deal between Blizzard and NetEase expires on January 23. This would effectively remove World of Warcraft, Diablo 3, Hearthstone, Warcraft III: Reforged, Overwatch, the StarCraft series, and The Heroes of the Storm from China. 

Blizzard gives statement on deal expiry

Blizzard gave a statement, highlighting that a deal could not be reached as they failed to agree on terms “that is consistent with Blizzard’s operating principles and commitments to players and employees, and the agreements are set to expire in January 2023.”

Mike Ybarra, President of Blizzard Entertainment, said, “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.” He added, “Their enthusiasm and creativity inspire us, and we are looking for alternatives to bring our games back to players in the future.”

Diablo Immortal will not be affected by expiring deal

NetEase and Blizzard had licensing agreements with each other since 2008. Diablo Immortal is the most recent partnership between the two companies. However, that is a separate agreement between Blizzard and NetEase who co-developed and co-published the game. Diablo Immortal will not be affected by the expiring licensing agreement between the two companies. 

NetEase offers reasons why deal with Blizzard could not be finalized

NetEase put out a statement of its own where it cited “material differences on key terms” and protecting the “data and assets” of Chinese players as key reasons why an agreement could not be reached. William Ding, CEO of NetEase, said, “We have put in a great deal of effort and tried with our utmost sincerity to negotiate with Activision Blizzard so that we could continue our collaboration and serve the many dedicated players in China.” 

“We are honored to have had the privilege of serving our gamers over the past 14 years and have shared many precious moments with them during that time. We will continue our promise to serve our players well until the last minute. We will make sure our players’ data and assets are well protected in all of our games,” said William Ding.

NetEase claimed that Blizzard deal’s expiration would have “no material impact” on the company’s financial results. They also claimed that net revenues and net income contribution from licensed Blizzard games contributed “low single digits” when it comes to percentage of total net revenues and net income in 2021 and first nine months of 2022. 

Meanwhile, NetEase head of partnerships, Simon Zhu, did not hold back when he shared his opinion about the deal. He claimed on social media, “one day, when what has happened behind the scene could be told, developers and gamers will have a whole new level understanding of how much damage a jerk can make.”