Blizzard has had a long-term partnership with NetEase to allow its games to operate in China. Unfortunately, a dispute between the two companies has come to light, and as a result, their licensing deal will be coming to an end and the majority of Blizzard games will be pulled from China.
On the 23rd of January 2023, games including World of Warcraft, Hearthstone, Overwatch, Diablo 3, Heroes of the Storm and StarCraft will no longer be available to buy or play in China. While Blizzard and NetEase have been working together since 2008, the latest round of license agreement talks did not go to plan. Blizzard has not announced a new publishing partner for its games in China, so these games could be unavailable in the country for quite some time.
While Blizzard is a loss, NetEase does not expect the end of the licensing agreement to have a material impact on its financial results. NetEase will continue to work with Blizzard on at least one game though – Diablo Immortal, which was a co-development effort between the two companies.
Diablo Immortal was initially delayed in China and another mobile project between the two companies was reportedly cancelled not too long ago. We do not know if these issues had an impact on negotiations for the new licensing agreement.
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KitGuru Says: The Chinese market is too big for Blizzard to ignore, so we would expect this situation to be rectified at some point, but there good be some downtime before that takes place.