China’s games giant NetEase has reportedly filed a lawsuit in Shanghai against American game developer Blizzard Entertainment. This is the latest in an ongoing saga between the two heavyweights, much of which has played out in bitter spats on social media.
NetEase is suing Blizzard for compensation NetEase claims its Chinese customers are owed by Blizzard after Blizzard’s Chinese servers closed earlier this year. NetEase has reportedly already paid compensation to customers affected by the shutdown, and is now seeking roughly 43.5 million USD in damages.
A 14 year-long licensing partnership between the two ended in January, meaning that popular Blizzard-produced games are no longer available in China. The two companies had long collaborated to locally produce many popular Blizzard titles, including World of Warcraft and Overwatch. Such a partnership is essential for non-Chinese game developers wanting to tap into the Chinese market since only Chinese game developers can submit new titles to authorities for licensing approval.
Blizzard previously blamed NetEase for the server shutdown, claiming the company declined to renew their partnership agreement in a statement on Weibo. Chinese gaming fans have mainly sided with NetEase, owing in large part to the aggressive social media campaign NetEase launched to show that Blizzard “doesn’t care about its players”.
The news that NetEase will sue Blizzard has clocked up 60 million views on Weibo, but neither company has posted about the issue on the platform as of April 24.
Blizzard Entertainment has been in talks with multiple prospective Chinese partners since news of the split with NetEase broke, but no update on a potential return to China has surfaced yet. Blizzard has also not yet publicly responded to the lawsuit.