NetEase’s cooperation with Blizzard to end due to expiration of licenses
Published: Nov 17, 2022 09:37 PM
Photo: Screenshot from

Photo: Screenshot from

The cooperation between Chinese gaming company NetEase and US-based Blizzard Entertainment in the Chinese mainland will be suspended on January 23, 2023 due to the expiration of licensing agreements, the two companies announced on Thursday. Shares in Hong Kong Stock Exchange listed NetEase had fallen 9.051 percent by press time on Thursday evening. 

Blizzard said in a statement that the two parties have not reached a deal to renew the agreements that is consistent with Blizzard’s operating principles and commitments to players and employees, so the current agreements are set to expire in January 2023.

NetEase said the two companies have been conducting discussions but have failed to reach agreements in some key areas, noting that it regrets Blizzard’s earlier announcement about the suspension and has to accept the decision. 

Blizzard also expressed gratitude for the passion of players in the Chinese mainland since the two companies started their game publishing agreement in 2008, and vowed to look for alternatives to bring Blizzard’s games back to players in the future, the company said in an announcement. 

The 2022 third quarter financial results of NetEase published on Thursday stated that the net revenues and net income contribution from licensed Blizzard games represented low single digits as a percentage of NetEase's total net revenues and net income in 2021 and in the first nine months of 2022.

NetEase said the expiration of the licenses will have no material impact on the company’s financial results.

According to the latest announcement from NetEase, the operation of multiple games developed by Blizzard will be suspended from January 24, 2023. The virtual top-up service and new player registration will be suspended from November 23, 2022, and the operation of games and servers will be officially closed at midnight on January 23, 2023. 

During the period, the operation of games and online stores will remain normal. After the official suspension, players’ game data will be saved, and remaining virtual currencies and game time will be refunded according to relevant laws and policies, said NetEase. 

The suspension will cover games including World of Warcraft, Hearthstone, Warcraft III: Reforged, Overwatch, the StarCraft series, Diablo III, and Heroes of the Storm. The co-development and publishing of mobile game Diablo Immortal is covered under a separate agreement between the two companies.

The news topped the search trending list on Sina Weibo On Thursday, and most netizens and players were discussing the license situation in the Chinese mainland market in the future. 

A regulation document issued by China’s state council stated that operation licenses for imported internet videogames should be re-acquired after the operator is switched, and the operation would be halted until the new license is issued.  

NetEase published a letter to Blizzard games players on Thursday, saying that the company will do its best to negotiate with Blizzard to address issues including refunding, game data, virtual properties to protect the rights of players. 

Global Times