Thursday, February 9, 2023
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Blizzard games go offline in China

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NetEase and Blizzard, unable to come to an agreement, are forced to shut down most Blizzard game services in mainland China.

Today’s the day most Blizzard games go offline in China. After failing to reach a deal with publishing partner NetEase, Blizzard has shuttered most of its games in the country, including World of Warcraft, Overwatch 2, and Diablo. (Diablo Immortal remains unaffected, distributed through a separate publishing deal with NetEase.)

The closure comes after reports that Blizzard tried to extend the current deal by six months to keep games in players’ hands while it shopped for a new publishing partner. According to a post on Blizzard’s Weibo account, the company said NetEase rejected the extension deal. A translation of the post on World of Warcraft site Wowhead read:

We approached NetEase again last week for assistance in exploring a six-month extension of our existing agreement, which is based on terms NetEase has agreed to in 2019, to allow everyone to continue playing without disruption and for Blizzard to continue exploring a reasonable and long-term path forward in the China region. Unfortunately, NetEase did not accept our proposal to extend the existing game service agreement following last week’s extension negotiations.

Apparently, this ticked NetEase off something fierce as the company responded with its own post saying — also according to a translation from Wowhead

For unknowable reasons, last week Blizzard re-sought NetEase with an offer of a so-called six-month extension of the game service and other conditions, and made it clear that it would not stop continuing negotiations with other potential partners during the contract extension. And as far as we know, Blizzard’s negotiations with other companies during the same period were all based on a three-year contract period. Considering the non-reciprocity, unfairness and other conditions attached to the cooperation, therefore, the parties could not reach an agreement in the end.

NetEase included in its statement a pretty funny quip accusing Blizzard of trying to take advantage of NetEase and basically engaging in behavior similar to “divorce but still try to live together behavior.”

The divorce description is apt as the whole thing reads as a pretty acrimonious breakup. Over the weekend, a video surfaced of employees at NetEase dismantling its massive Gorehowl statue while handing out drinks with a name that is allegedly a misogynistic slur referring to a person who seems pure but conceals manipulative tendencies.

Blizzard and NetEase had been in their partnership, releasing games in China for 14 years. The announcement that their longstanding partnership is over has come as a shock to players. The Chengdu Hunters — one of the teams competing in Blizzard’s Overwatch League — posted a sad goodbye to the game that ostensibly the team and casual players no longer have access to (at least legally, anyway).

In a statement to The Verge, Blizzard spokesperson Joe Christinat said, “Activision Blizzard is grateful to our Chinese player community for the passion and creativity over the past two decades. Our commitment to players on mainland China remain strong as we continue to work with Tencent to distribute Call of Duty Mobile as well as [continue] active talks with potential partners to resume gameplay for Activision Blizzard’s iconic franchises.”

The Verge also reached out to NetEase for comment.

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