Blizzard Entertainment has announced that it will be pulling most of its games from mainland China by January 2023. The announcement follows an expiration of the license agreement between Activision Blizzard and NetEase. Many of Blizzard Entertainment’s popular games such as World of Warcraft, Overwatch, StarCraft, and Diablo III will be pulled but one, Diablo Immortal, is covered under a separate agreement. It is interesting that the most recent Diablo entry will remain considering the controversy with its microtransactions that led to some game streamers quitting the game. Criticisms of that game, where some players reportedly spent over $100,000 to max out their characters, led Blizzard president Mike Ybarra to defend it. Blizzard had said that it will be contacting affected players with details soon.
IRVINE, Calif.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Nov. 16, 2022– Blizzard Entertainment, Inc. announced today that it will be suspending most Blizzard game services in mainland China due to the expiration of the current licensing agreements with NetEase, Inc. on January 23, 2023. This includes World of Warcraft®, Hearthstone®, Warcraft® III: Reforged, Overwatch®, the StarCraft® series, Diablo III®, and Heroes of the Storm®. Diablo Immortal® co-development and publishing is covered under a separate agreement between the two companies.
Blizzard Entertainment has had licensing agreements with NetEase since 2008, covering the publication of these Blizzard titles in China. The two parties have not reached a deal to renew the agreements that is consistent with Blizzard’s operating principles and commitments to players and employees, and the agreements are set to expire in January 2023.
We will suspend new sales in the coming days and Chinese players will be receiving details of how this will work soon. Upcoming releases for World of Warcraft: Dragonflight, Hearthstone: March of the Lich King, and season 2 of Overwatch 2 will proceed later this year.
“We’re immensely grateful for the passion our Chinese community has shown throughout the nearly 20 years we’ve been bringing our games to China through NetEase and other partners,” said Mike Ybarra, president, Blizzard Entertainment. “Their enthusiasm and creativity inspire us, and we are looking for alternatives to bring our games back to players in the future.”
Blizzard has worked with NetEase since 2008 so it is not entirely unlikely that the two may yet still come to an agreement but this is not the first deal to fall through in 2022. A World of Warcraft MMORPG for Smartphones had been in development between the two for three years but that project was canceled in August after disagreements between them.