February 8, 2023

Money News PH

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Blizzard will suspend World of Warcraft over licensing disputes in China

Blizzard will suspend games in China because it cannot reach an agreement with its licensing and publishing partner NetEase, a press release said. World of Warcraft, Hearthstone, Overwatch 2, Starcraft, Heroes of the Storm, Diablo III, and Warcraft III: Reforged will no longer be available in China after January 23, 2023.

Blizzard will suspend game sales and provide guidance to Chinese players “in the coming days,” according to the press release, which didn’t include a specific timeline. Development of Diablo Immortal is in a separate agreement and will continue, NetEase said in a statement. Upcoming releases, including the latest World of Warcraft expansion Dragonflight and Overwatch 2 Season 2, “will continue later this year,” according to Blizzard.

NetEase, the second largest gaming company in China, has been publishing games for Blizzard since 2008. The partnership ensures Blizzard’s games meet China’s strict content guidelines. NetEase is also a franchisee in Blizzard’s Overwatch League and owns the Shanghai Dragons team. In August, the two companies failed to agree on the terms of a deal and canceled a World of Warcraft mobile game, Bloomberg reported.

The problems weren’t just the financial terms of the deal — who owned the intellectual property and player data was also a matter of dispute, Bloomberg reported, citing anonymous sources.

“We are extremely grateful for the passion our Chinese community has shown over the nearly 20 years that we have been bringing our games to China,” said Mike Ybarra, president of Blizzard Entertainment, in the press release. “We’re looking at alternatives to bring our games back to players in the future.”

Revenue from those games “represented a low single-digit percentage” of NetEase’s total revenue, the company said.