NetEase and Blizzard ink deal to revive World of Warcraft, Overwatch 2, and Diablo IV in China

re-mess up the remix

(As of late tonight, Blizzard has officially confirmed the rumors. Our original post follows, and we’ve updated with the official news at the end.)

It’s not official yet, but we’re getting a fresh round of rumors and claims that Blizzard and NetEase are finally mending their fences.

Multiple Chinese media outlets are reporting that Blizzard and NetEase have inked a new deal to return Blizzard’s games – including World of Warcraft, Overwatch 2, and the Diablo franchise (excepting Diablo Immortal, which never left) to the Chinese market.

As readers will recall, Activision-Blizzard announced the end of its publishing partnership with NetEase back in November of 2022, fully shutting down the affected games at the top of 2023 – and it got pretty ugly along the way. Blizzard, for example, implied NetEase’s proposals ran contrary to its operating principles, while NetEase suggested Blizzard negotiated in bad faith and a NetEase exec blamed an unnamed “jerk.” Statues were destroyed, people were laid off, and in March of last year, no less than The New York Times had shined light on the dispute, which appeared to the heavily the work of – wait for it – Bobby Kotick himself. (At the time, we referred to the situation as realizing “these MMOs were brutally demolished over a game of corporate telephone sprinkled with a pinch of corruption and/or extortion and/or execs looking hard for reasons to bail.”)

Blizzard initially maintained that it was on the hunt for a new publisher in the region, but it floated neither names nor timelines. And then in December of last year – after the Microsoft acquisition of Activision-Blizzard and just before Kotick was fully pushed out – we caught another rumor that NetEase was willing to deal with Microsoft with Kotick out of the picture. Now, we have even more reason to think those renewed negotiations were true.

Of course, even once the deal is formalized, it’ll take time to get the games back online, especially given that NetEase let go many of the staffers who’d maintained them in the region. But hey, at least Chinese players get their toons back!

Source: SCMP. Thanks, Jwillo!
It’s official now: Blizzard’s current president, Johanna Faries, made the announcement late tonight:

“Beloved video game titles from Blizzard Entertainment that captivated millions of players in China will return to the market sequentially, beginning this summer, under a renewed publishing deal Blizzard Entertainment, Microsoft Gaming, and NetEase (NASDAQ: NTES and HKEX: 9999) announced today.

After continuing discussions over the past year, both Blizzard Entertainment and NetEase are thrilled to align on a path forward to once again support players in mainland China and are proud to reaffirm their commitment to delivering exceptional gaming experiences.

The renewed publishing agreement will encompass games Chinese players had access to under the previous agreement: World of Warcraft®, Hearthstone®, and other titles in the Warcraft®, Overwatch®, Diablo®, and StarCraft® universes. Building upon more than 15 years of past collaboration, Blizzard and NetEase are working diligently on relaunch plans, with further details to be shared at a later date.

Separately, Microsoft Gaming and NetEase have also entered into an agreement to explore bringing new NetEase titles to Xbox consoles and other platforms.

“We at Blizzard are thrilled to reestablish our partnership with NetEase and to work together, with deep appreciation for the collaboration between our teams, to deliver legendary gaming experiences to players in China,” said Johanna Faries, President of Blizzard Entertainment. “We are immensely grateful for the passion the Chinese community has shown for Blizzard games throughout the years, and we are focused on bringing our universes back to players with excellence and dedication.”

“Celebrating our collaborations, we are thrilled to embark on the next chapter, built on trust and mutual respect, to serve our users in this unique community that we’ve built together.” said William Ding, Chief Executive Officer and Director, NetEase. “Our commitment to providing more exhilarating and creative entertainment experience remains unwavering, and we are excited to see positive synergies fostered to encourage and empower collaborations to bring the joy of gaming to a broad community.”

“Blizzard and NetEase have done incredible work to renew our commitment to players – Blizzard’s universes have been part of players’ lives in the region for many years. Returning Blizzard’s legendary games to players in China while exploring ways to bring more new titles to Xbox demonstrates our commitment to bringing more games to more players around the world,” said Phil Spencer, CEO of Microsoft Gaming.”

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