American Blizzard Entertainment announced that Chinese NetEase had not renewed the license agreement which allowed China to release games from StarCraft StarCraft, StarCraft Diablo, Overwatch, and Diablo series since 2008.
The current contract expires on January 23, 2023. China will also be without World of Warcraft, Warcraft III Reforged, Hearthstone and Overwatch 2, Diablo III, Heroes of the Storm, StarCraft, and Hearthstone on the same date.
China sales of Blizzard gaming products will be suspended “In the next days”However, World of Warcraft Dragonflight (November 28), Hearthstone March of the Lich King December 6 and Overwatch Season 2 (December 6) will continue as planned.
NetEase says that Blizzard’s share in the company’s revenue for 2021, 2022, and the first nine months 2022 was not more than a tiny percentage. Therefore, expiring licenses will have no significant impact on financial results.
Bloomberg, citing informants, stated that among the factors that prevented Blizzard from reaching an agreement with NetEase (along with financial ones) were issues related to intellectual property ownership, control over Chinese players’ data, and other matters.
Blizzard & NetEase cancelled a joint mobile MMORPG codenamed Neptune, in the World of Warcraft World, in August. This was a sign of a possible rift between the companies. It had been planned for more than three years.
Bloomberg reports that Activision Blizzard will not be able continue its Chinese activities without a NetEase partner. It is not known if the company is in negotiations with Tencent or another local distributor.