Blizzard Entertainment may soon reveal its new partner to operate World of Warcraft and its other games in China. And it looks like it won’t be able to renew a licensing agreement with local tech giant NetEase.

Blizzard is entering the final stages of negotiations with a new Chinese partner

World of Warcraft

The report came from Chinese insider and famous local WoW player Lao Dao (老刀舅舅), according to GameLook. Here are the key takeaways:

  • NetEase has laid off most employees at its joint venture with Blizzard, which was responsible for operating World of Warcraft, Hearthstone, and other games from the US studio in the country;
  • Chinese companies Tencent, Perfect World, ByteDance, and Alibaba Group were named as four potential partners;
  • According to Lao, Blizzard’s negotiations with a new Chinese agent are progressing rapidly — the World of Warcraft developer is ready to choose between the two companies.

A long-term licensing agreement between Blizzard and NetEase expired in November 2022. The company has already suspended all in-app purchases for Chinese players, and games will temporarily go offline on January 23.

The list of affected titles includes World of Warcraft, Overwatch, Diablo III, Hearthstone, Heroes of the Storm, and the StarCraft series. Diablo Immortal is the only game that will keep working in China despite the rupture between the two companies, as it is regulated by a separate agreement.

Blizzard is now in dire need of finding a new partner that would not only publish its products in China, but would also ensure that they comply with the country’s strict regulations and content policies.

If Blizzard doesn’t strike a new long-term deal with another company, it will lose its revenue stream from China, as well as access to millions of local players.

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