June 16, 2024
Blizzard NetEase
Image credit: Blizzard Entertainment / NetEase

Game developer Blizzard Entertainment has announced a new agreement with Chinese technology company NetEase, more than a year after the two entities ended their partnership.

This means that Blizzard’s games will once again become available in China this summer, ending a period of uncertainty that started in late 2022.

ESI London 2024

The two companies shared that continued discussions over the past year were in place in an effort to return Blizzard’s games to China. In the announcement, Blizzard noted that both companies managed to “align on a path forward to once again support players in mainland China.” Terms of the deal were not disclosed by NetEase or Blizzard.

This move will be welcomed by Chinese audiences, which lost the ability to play Blizzard’s games at the start of 2023. Back then, NetEase and Blizzard failed to come to an agreement that would keep the Chinese company as the official partner for Blizzard in China. This meant that the likes of World of Warcraft, Overwatch, StarCraft and Hearthstone were not available in the country — one of gaming and esports’ biggest markets.

It was a rather tumultuous end to NetEase and Bliazzard’s over 14-year relationship, which at the time saw NetEase President Simon Zhu publicly calling an unspecified person at Blizzard a ‘jerk’.

During Blizzard’s absence from the Chinese market, Activision Blizzard was acquired by technology giant Microsoft in a $68.7bn (~£50.5bn) deal that had been in the works since January 2022.

In addition to renewing the partnership, NetEase has also entered a partnership with Blizzard’s new parent company to “explore bringing new NetEase titles to Xbox consoles and other platforms.”

William Ding, Chief Executive Officer and Director at NetEase, commented: “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.

“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.”

The two partners have announced that the games will come back to China ‘this summer’, but it remains to be seen just how much the pause in their availability affected the esports scenes in the country. Titles such as Overwatch now have greater competition with the likes of VALORANT now available in the country as of 2023.

Ivan Šimić

Ivan comes from Croatia, loves weird simulator games, and is terrible at playing anything else. Spent 5 years writing about tech and esports in Croatia, and is now doing it here.

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