Blizzard and NetEase Strike New Deal, Bringing Blizzard Titles Back to China

Blizzard Entertainment and NetEase have reportedly inked a new licensing agreement, signaling the return of Blizzard titles to the Chinese gaming market. The partnership renewal comes on the heels of Microsoft‘s acquisition of Blizzard as part of the larger Activision Blizzard deal.

According to reports from Chinese news outlet 36Kr, the agreement marks the end of a hiatus that began in January 2023 when Blizzard suspended its services in China due to the expiration of its licensing deal with NetEase in 2022. Players in China were left without access to popular titles like Diablo 3, Overwatch, and World of Warcraft, with the situation further complicated by the release of Diablo 4, which couldn’t be played in the region without a VPN.

Blizzard engaged in negotiations with several Chinese publishers before ultimately opting to renew its partnership with NetEase. Chinese regulations mandate foreign gaming studios to collaborate with local partners to obtain the necessary licenses for operation within the country.

The fallout between Blizzard and NetEase had wider repercussions, with the Chinese publisher accusing Blizzard of negotiating with other companies while attempting a six-month extension. NetEase rejected Blizzard’s contract offer, citing inequality and unfair terms. The public dismantling of a giant World of Warcraft statue outside NetEase’s Hangzhou headquarters became a symbol of the failed deal.

Image: Blizzard

While the renewed partnership is undoubtedly good news for fans in China, the road to full restoration of services is expected to be a gradual process. The reintegration, estimated to take up to six months, involves NetEase rebuilding its servers and operational teams to support Blizzard games.

With the new licensing agreement, players in China can look forward to legally purchasing and playing Diablo 4 once the deal is finalized. Overwatch 2, which faced review bombing on Steam due to the previous licensing issues, is poised to benefit from the renewed partnership, potentially seeing improved review scores once its servers are operational in China.

Diablo Immortal remains the sole Blizzard game available in the Chinese market under a separate licensing agreement between Blizzard and NetEase.

The agreement is expected to bring relief to the estimated three million World of Warcraft players in China, coinciding with the recent announcements of three new expansions for the popular MMORPG—The War Within, Midnight, and The Last Titan. Players are hopeful that the NetEase servers will be operational before The War Within’s slated launch in 2024.

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Abdullah Amin

Abdullah is passionate about staying up-to-date on the latest trends and developments in the gaming industry. With a strong background in writing and research, he is able to provide in-depth analysis and informative articles for a wide range of gaming audiences.