After almost a year and a half after breaking up with NetEase, Blizzard has come to a new agreement with its Chinese partner. The deal will make the studio’s game available to local players again.

Blizzard and NetEase make peace to bring WoW and other games to China under new deal

World of Warcraft

What happened?

  • A renewed publishing agreement, signed by NetEase, Blizzard, and Microsoft Gaming, was announced on April 9. As a result, games like World of Warcraft, Hearthstone, Overwatch, Diablo, and StarCraft will return to China this summer.
  • The companies didn’t name the exact date, but in a letter on Weibo, they said they “need time to restart services and solve technical issues including restructuring server rooms and restoring various type of data” (via Bloomberg).
  • Under the new deal, Microsoft will also explore bringing new NetEase games to Xbox consoles and other platforms.
  • “Blizzard and NetEase have done incredible work to renew our commitment to players — Blizzard’s universes have been part of players’ lives in the region for many years,” Microsoft Gaming CEO Phil Spencer said in a statement. “Returning Blizzard’s legendary games to players in China while exploring ways to bring more new titles to Xbox demonstrates our commitment to bringing more games to more players around the world.”
  • The renewed partnership had a positive impact on NetEase shares, with the stock up 2.4% this morning.

Brief timeline of Blizzard’s relationship with NetEase

  • NetEase has published Blizzard titles in China since 2008, also obtaining IP ownership of local versions of the studio’s products and ensuring that the content met the country’s strict regulations.
  • In November 2022, the companies failed to agree on the new terms, announcing the end of their partnership. The only exception was Diablo Immortal, which was licensed under a separate long-term deal.
  • In January 2023, Blizzard games went offline in China, leading to huge anger from local players. It was reported at the time that over 1 million users applied for refunds.
  • Blizzard asked NetEase to extend the expired deal for another six months to allow Chinese users to continue to play the games, but the company refused, saying that this proposal was “not in line with business logic.”
  • In March 2023, The New York Times revealed that disagreements between the companies began long before the expiration of their agreement. The publication cited a phone call between Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick and NetEase head William Ding, with the latter allegedly saying that NetEase could sway the Chinese government to either block or support the $68.7 billion merge with Microsoft depending on the outcome of the licensing negotiations.
  • There were also several reports about Blizzard’s negotiations with other Chinese companies, including Perfect World and Tencent. However, none of them were successful.

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