Blizzard services in China suspended after licensing agreement with NetEase ends, causing millions of players to lose access to games.
After two decades of providing popular video games, such as “World of Warcraft”, to millions of players in China, Blizzard Entertainment’s servers in the country went offline at midnight local time on Tuesday. This follows the expiration of the licensing agreement with longtime local partner NetEase.
The news has been met with shock and sadness from Chinese gamers, who have grown up with the iconic “WoW” franchise. Many took to social media to express their disbelief and sadness over the loss of their pastime.
The suspension follows a bitter dispute between Blizzard and NetEase. Foreign publishers must work with local partners to offer video games in China, and the two companies were unable to reach a new agreement on key terms. Blizzard had appealed to NetEase to let fans continue playing uninterrupted, but the Chinese tech and gaming giant accused Blizzard of blindsiding it with its “sudden statement” and called the US company’s proposal “outrageous, inappropriate, and not in line with business logic”.
The public spat marked an unexpected twist in the companies’ 14-year partnership. Under a separate agreement, the companies are still collaborating on the joint development and publishing of “Diablo Immortal”. Blizzard said in December that “World of Warcraft” fans would be able to back up their playing history and ensure all progress was saved as it wound down its agreement and looked for a new partner.
Activision Blizzard said it is continuing its search for a new distribution partner. “Our commitment to players on mainland China remains 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 Blizzard’s iconic franchises,” the company said in a statement.
The shutdown of Blizzard’s servers in China has been an emotional experience for gamers and senior leadership at NetEase. The end of the partnership marks the end of an era for millions of players in the country who have grown up with the iconic “WoW” franchise. As Activision Blizzard continues its search for a new distribution partner, it remains to be seen how the gaming landscape in China will look in the future.