There’ll be no more Overwatch 2 and World Of Warcraft in mainland China from January 23rd, 2023, Blizzard and NetEase have announced. Those are among the games that NetEase have handled publishing for within the country, but the two companies have failed to reach an agreement to extend their deal. To add insult to injury, NetEase’s president Simon Zhu has taken to LinkedIn to blame “a jerk” for the deal’s collapse.
Blizzard and NetEase have been in partnership in China since 2008. Zhu said he was “heartbroken” to see the deal with Blizzard end after he’d personally put 10,000 hours into WOW, StarCraft, and Overwatch. NetEase’s president then got a bit mysterious by adding that, eventually, devs and players will understand “how much damage a jerk can make”. Failing to clear up who he meant by that, Zhu ended his outburst by saying that he felt “terrible for players who lived in those worlds”.
Diablo Immortal will remain available in China because it falls under another deal, but games such as Hearthstone, the StarCraft series, Diablo 3, Warcraft 3: Reforged, and Heroes Of The Storm will also lose access to Blizzard game services. Although NetEase’s publishing rights expire in January and sales of Blizzard’s games will be suspended “in the coming days”, Blizzard clarified that upcoming releases of World of Warcraft: Dragonflight, Hearthstone: March of the Lich King, and Overwatch 2 season 2 would still go ahead this year.
In a separate statement, NetEase CEO William Ding said that “material differences on key terms” were the sticking point that meant both companies couldn’t reach an agreement, but assured players that their data and assets would be “well protected”. Ding insisted that the end of the deal wouldn’t cause any financial issues for NetEase, but the South China Morning Post reported that share prices had dropped when the end of the partnership with Blizzard became public.
Blizzard have described the situation as a “suspension”, so services could resume in China for those games at a later date under another publisher. If the two companies manage to revive their arrangement again, or another publisher picks up Blizzard’s games in China, then I’ll let you know. You can read Blizzard’s full statement about the NetEase deal’s expiration here.