[Updated] Blizzard and NetEase Reportedly Working on a New Deal to Bring Games Back to China

[Edit—April 10th] Since publishing this article, Blizzard and NetEase have officially announced their partnership agreement renewal—which will bring games like World of Warcraft and Overwatch back to China.

Microsoft has also announced that there will also be a broader partnership to bring other Xbox games to China, too. You can read the official announcement on the Blizzard Press Center.

Could Blizzard and NetEase’s 14-year partnership be making a comeback? The original deal ended over a year ago, but new reports are saying a new deal could be made—bringing back Blizzard’s games like World of Warcraft.

Reports on Blizzard and NetEase negotiating a new deal come from multiple Chinese news sources, including Sina.com and the South China Morning Post.

This deal is said to be made possible following Microsoft’s acquisition of Activision Blizzard last year. Reportedly, Microsoft re-opened discussions with NetEase regarding a deal in late 2023, and they’ve been heading in a positive direction.

Blizzard and NetEase could be announcing a new deal as early as this week—however, it’ll still take at least another month for Blizzard’s games to return to the Chinese market. Sina.com’s report cites a NetEase source stating they might be aiming to re-release the games in Summer.

If the deal negotiations go through without issues, this will be a huge positive shift for both companies.

The last time we saw NetEase dealing with the Blizzard deal fallout, angry videos were being released of employees toppling and destroying a Warcraft orc statue as the games were shut down. Even if this deal does go through, it’ll take time for Blizzard to rebuild goodwill in China.

The original end-of-service for the deal between the two companies happened last year in January 2023. It was sudden and resulted in WoW, Overwatch, HearthStone, StarCraft, and Diablo titles (excluding Immortals) going offline.

The end of the deal also resulted in several game projects being canceled that were being co-developed by both parties—like the WoW-universe mobile title. It’s possible we could see these projects being revived if the deal is re-established.

It’s no surprise that Microsoft wants to re-establish a deal. China has one of the biggest markets for videogames, and they’d have trouble finding another publisher outside NetEase, and the company has prior experience with Blizzard’s titles.

The mobile Diablo game, Diablo Immortals, is still being developed by NetEase and hit over $500 million in its first year. China is also the largest market for Immortal, making up 37% of the revenue.

By Camellia Hao Ren

Camellia Hao Ren is an Australian journalist and editor. When they aren't writing, they are usually playing games or reading.

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