World of Warcraft Will Be Taken Offline in China as Activision Blizzard and Netease Terminate Their 14-year Agreement

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Last Updated on November 18, 2022 by Bitfinsider

Activision Blizzard and Chinese gaming company NetEase are terminating their 14-year license arrangement, which will result in the termination of popular game brands such as World of Warcraft and Overwatch in China.

The contract, which was initially signed in August 2008, will now expire in January 2023 due to the inability of the parties to agree on renewal terms. The massively multiplayer online game World of Warcraft is extremely popular in China.

Thursday, NetEase’s Hong Kong-listed shares fell 9%.

William Ding, the CEO of NetEase, stated in a statement that Blizzard and NetEase had “substantial disputes on fundamental parameters” during merger discussions.

Ding stated, “We are honored to have had the opportunity to serve our players for the past 14 years and to have enjoyed many precious moments with them during this period.”

“We will uphold our commitment to serve our players well to the very end. We will safeguard the data and assets of our gamers in all of our games.”

It implies that Chinese gamers will no longer be able to play blockbuster games such as World of Warcraft, StarCraft, Hearthstone, Overwatch, and Diablo, which will be acquired by Microsoft in a $69 billion deal to acquire Activision Blizzard.

Blizzard stated that new game sales will be banned in mainland China “in the coming days.” Later this year, World of Warcraft: Dragonflight, Hearthstone: March of the Lich King, and Overwatch 2: Season 2 will be released as scheduled.

President of Blizzard, Mike Ybarra, remarked, “We are incredibly appreciative of the dedication our Chinese community has demonstrated during the nearly two decades we’ve been bringing our games to China through NetEase and other partners.”

“Their zeal and ingenuity motivate us, and we are searching for future ways to bring our games back to players.”

NetEase reported that net revenues and net income contributions from licensed Blizzard games “represented low single digits” of its total sales and profits in 2021 and the first nine months of this year.

The agreement’s termination “will have no meaningful effect on NetEase’s financial results,” the business claimed.

The release of the highly anticipated mobile and PC game Diablo Immortal in China will not be hindered due to a separate arrangement between the companies.

The game’s release was delayed past June 23 due to network and performance optimization concerns.

The move on Thursday comes at a delicate time for the Chinese gaming industry, which is only emerging from a months-long hold on approvals. As part of a larger regulatory crackdown on China’s domestic technology firms, the industry has been subjected to severe scrutiny.

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