According to a report from The Wall Street Journal, Blizzard’s Chinese partner, NetEase, has denied an offer to extend their licensing agreement which would keep games such as World of WarCraft online in China. In response, Blizzard is currently in talks with other video game companies to see if they can find a way to make its titles available to Chinese gamers.
Amid the chaos created by Microsoft’s aborted merger with Blizzard, the publisher has been trying to make sure Chinese gamers can continue to have access to their favorite games. Blizzard proposed a six-month extension to its existing agreement with NetEase, which is set to finish at the end of next week. Last November, the company warned that if NetEase did not agree to the extension, gaming services in China would be terminated on January 23rd.
Just last week, President Mike Ybarra of Blizzard had an encounter with Chinese officials to extend the partnership, but the proposal was declined. The CEO of NetEase, William Ding, commented that he found Blizzard’s terms of affiliation to be unsatisfactory. This leaves us with a questionable future for Blizzard’s gaming services in China; that being said, if NetEase does not alter its stance, gamers in China may not be able to access Blizzard’s games, including the upcoming survival game that Blizzard revealed last year.
As more information is revealed about Diablo 4, Chinese gamers are eager to learn what Blizzard has planned for 2023. Government controls in the video game industry caused a 10% reduction in the Chinese market last year, making it the first dip in many years. In July 2021, all new video game licenses were put on hold, yet foreign titles started being given the green light again in December 2022.
For the past 14 years, Blizzard has been in a partnership with NetEase to access the biggest mobile gaming market in the world. However, Chinese social media has had a negative opinion of Blizzard due to NetEase’s claims that Chinese gamers were not benefitting from the partnership. As NetEase is getting ready to launch its version of the popular online RPG World of WarCraft, there is an air of uncertainty surrounding Blizzard’s future in China.
Blizzard has declared the introduction of a program allowing Chinese World of WarCraft players to download their saved progress for later use. The company is expecting a new Chinese collaborator, despite its games ceasing functioning in China commencing next week.