In November, Blizzard and NetEase failed to reach an agreement to distribute the former’s games in China. Today, Blizzard requested an extension of the contract, refused by NetEase. Blizzard games will therefore close in China on January 23.
For 14 years, the Chinese giant NetEase ensured the distribution and exploitation of the games of Blizzard in China. Last November, Blizzard and NetEase nevertheless each announced in a separate press release that this partnership was coming to an endand would not not renewed for lack of being able to reach an agreement satisfactory for both groups. As a result, NetEase will therefore no longer offer Blizzard games to Chinese players from January 23rd – for the record, the Chinese versions of World of WarcraftStarCraft and StarCraft IIofHearthStone, Heroes of the Storm, Overwatch and of Diablo III are concerned, but not Diablo Immortal covered by a specific contract.
When the split between the two groups was announced, we wondered behind the scenes of this non-renewal: was it at the initiative of Blizzard or NetEase? Neither of the two studios gave details, but in its press release, NetEase said it regretted the impossibility of reaching an agreement despite long negotiations, while Blizzard specified in its own that the Chinese market weighed little in its turnover.
A six-month extension refused
Today on Chinese social media (reported by Reuters), Blizzard informs local players that it has requested a contract extension of “an additional six months” from NetEase, the time to find a new partner in China. Proposal clearly rejected by NetEase. As a result, the Chinese versions of Blizzard’s games will close their doors as of January 23.
If we think of the Chinese players who will therefore lose access to the Blizzard catalog, we understand above all that at this time, the American developer has no alternative : Blizzard has not found new partners to exploit its games in China. In other words, the two studios have obviously gone to extremes in their negotiations to the point of breaking off their discussion, with no plan B or temporary alternative.
And under these conditions, the Return of Blizzard games to China could take time insofar as the developer will not only have to find a new partner, but also obtain the necessary approvals from the Chinese authorities, which we know are currently very reluctant to welcome new games on its territory – the previous change of operator of the Blizzard’s games in China had lasted over a year. And if the studio finds a Chinese partner capable of obtaining the necessary approvals and distributing its games, it will then be necessary to transfer the data of local players between NetEase (perhaps not very cooperative) and the new operator. Suffice to say that local players may have to wait a while before venturing back into the Blizzard universes.