Making up: Blizzard and NetEase reunite to bring games like World of Warcraft back to China

510 days since Blizzard and NetEase announced the end of their partnership, 422 days after Mainland Chinese gamers were unable to log in to their World of Warcraft accounts, the international gaming goliath and its Chinese publisher announced that they are getting back together. On Weibo, China’s Twitter equivalent, over 10 related topics ranked on the Hot Search list. Among them, “Blizzard officially announces return” (#暴雪官宣回归#) topped the list with 350 million views.

The return was hotly anticipated. As early as last December, streamers known to produce Blizzard-related content teased the possible renewal of a partnership between Blizzard and NetEase. NetEase also responded to the rumour last week, promising an official statement on 10 April, which all but confirms the reunion. Good news for players of Blizzard games before the breakup, as their data was retained so they can pick up right where they left off, as early as June this year. NetEase has launched a function on their app for gamers to find their log-in credentials or change their authentication phone numbers for games like World of Warcraft, Overwatch and Hearthstone.

This reunion is thought to be facilitated by Microsoft, which acquired Activision Blizzard last year. Analyses mostly agree that the reason for the renewed partnership is threefold. First of all, after the breakup with NetEase, Blizzard struggled to find a publisher in China that could handle all their games operating in China, especially on getting new licences by receiving approval from the authorities. The second reason is that Microsoft had a good working relationship with NetEase from the latter operating Minecraft in China. The last one, a rather personal one is that Bobby Kotick, the Activision Blizzard CEO at the time of the breakup, who was widely blamed by commentators and gamers for Blizzard leaving China, had left the company at the end of December 2023. Also worth noting is that with its smash hit party game Eggy Party, NetEase was in a much stronger position for negotiation when the deal was agreed at around CNY this year. Some speculated that NetEase might try to use Microsoft as a platform to push some of its own games abroad.

At the time, NetEase protested that it had been treated unfairly and was reported to have launched a lawsuit against Blizzard. The Chinese netizens also took it online by showing support for NetEase and blaming the greed of Blizzard, or Kotick. No wonder some of them felt let down and “played” by the two companies after the announcement of the reunion. However, most welcomed the move and were looking forward to going back to the world of Azeroth.


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