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World of Warcraft, Overwatch, and more pulled in China over Blizzard NetEase clash

NetEase executive blames Activision ‘jerk’ for end of Blizzard games in China

World of Warcraft: Dragonflight - The Dragon Aspect Kalecgos lands over an icy plain
World of Warcraft: Dragonflight launches Nov. 28.
Image: Blizzard Entertainment
Owen S. Good is a longtime veteran of video games writing, well known for his coverage of sports and racing games.

Activision Blizzard and NetEase have severed a 14-year partnership, meaning that games such as World of Warcraft and Overwatch 2 will soon no longer be playable in China. A NetEase Games executive blamed “a jerk” in a personal post on LinkedIn on Wednesday.

Activision and NetEase’s dissolved partnership had already been mentioned in financial results that Activision reported last week. A statement from NetEase on Wednesday confirmed its end. NetEase Games’ president for global investment and partnership hit LinkedIn shortly after to say he was “heartbroken as I will not longer have the access to my [World of Warcraft] account and memories next year.

“One day, when what has happened behind the scene could be told,” Simon Zhu wrote, “developers and gamers will have a whole new level understanding of how much damage a jerk can make. Feel terrible for players who lived in those worlds.”

In a statement made Wednesday evening, Blizzard Entertainment president Mike Ybarra said services for games such as World of Warcraft, Hearthstone, StarCraft, and Diablo 3 would end Jan. 23, 2023. “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,” Ybarra said. “Their enthusiasm and creativity inspire us, and we are looking for alternatives to bring our games back to players in the future.

NetEase chief executive William Ding said in a statement that, “there were material differences on key terms and we could not reach an agreement. […] We will continue our promise to serve our players well until the last minute,” Ding said. “We will make sure our players’ data and assets are well protected in all of our games.”

Both companies noted that a separate long-term agreement governs the publishing of Diablo Immortal in China, and that will continue.

CNBC reported that NetEase’s share price dipped almost 10% in trading on Hong Kong’s exchange on Thursday. The news does not seem to have affected Activision’s share price on Thursday. That company is still in the process of being acquired, subject to government regulators’ scrutiny and approval, in a $68.7 billion deal announced back in January.

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