Activision announced yesterday that Blizzard Entertainment no longer supports game services in mainland China. This is due to the licensing agreement with NetEase expiring on January 23rd, 2023.
The agreement has been in place for nearly 15 years, starting in 2008. NetEase has handled publication and release support for Blizzard titles such as World of Warcraft, Hearthstone, Overwatch, Diablo, and more. Blizzard and NetEase co-developed Diablo: Immortal, which was released earlier this year.
“We’re immensely grateful for the passion our Chinese community has shown throughout the nearly 20 years we’ve been bringing our games to China through NetEase and other partners,” said Mike Ybarra, the President of Blizzard Entertainment. “Their enthusiasm and creativity inspire us, and we are looking for alternatives to bring our games back to players in the future.”
During the Activision Blizzard 2022 Third Quarter financial results call, such a move was heavily hinted at.
“Currently, we have licensing agreements with a third party covering the publication of several Blizzard titles in China,” the company stated. “These agreements, which contributed approximately 3% of Activision Blizzard’s consolidated net revenues in 2021, expire in January 2023. We are in discussions regarding the renewal of these agreements, but a mutually-satisfactory deal may not be reached. We continue to see substantial long-term growth opportunities for our business in the country. The co-development and publishing of Diablo Immortal is covered by a separate long-term agreement.”
Blizzard announced that it would suspend sales in China within the coming days. This will affect World of Warcraft: Dragonflight, the upcoming expansion, and recently released content for Overwatch 2 and Hearthstone.