WoW might return to China after Blizzard-NetEase Deal – PlayerAuctions Blog

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World of Warcraft might return to one of the biggest gaming markets in the world after talks with NetEase. Blizzard has not found a potential Chinese publishing partner after their previous arrangements were terminated. After almost a year since their partnership ended, it seems NetEase is willing to enter a second agreement with the WoW developers, which means games like World of Warcraft, Overwatch 2, Diablo III, Starcraft, Hearthstone, and HoTS could return by mid-2024. 

NetEase Might Enter a New Partnership with Blizzard Entertainment

News has been circulating that Blizzard and NetEase want to rekindle their relationship and engage in another licensing agreement. This info came to light after 36kr posted an article about it, and the removal of news topics about the World of Warcraft service termination on the NetEase gaming community app has reinforced this rumor. 

The possible re-negotiations between the two gaming giants will allow Bizzard games to return to the Chinese Market after a year of suspension. However, it will take some time before servers become fully operational once a new contract has been signed. Unfortunately, these operations will only get processed once the negotiations are official. Gamers will need to wait for further confirmation from companies until then. 

Blizzard Pulled Out of Chinese Market in 2023

The Chinese Publisher served as WoW’s domestic administrator for the past fifteen years until the dissolution of their partnership. World of Warcraft was highly popular in China, so it was a massive surprise to the gaming community for NetEase to cancel negotiations and refuse the five-month extension Blizzard was asking for. The loss of a Chinese player dealt an enormous blow to World of Warcraft’s player base since it is one of its largest markets. 

Blizzard and NetEase had a conflict of interest last year, which resulted in the latter not renewing their previous contract with the former. While the cause of the rift was never confirmed, many have alluded that the reason was Activision-Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick. The CEO was looking for better deals from other potential partners, which would have offended NetEase. The Chinese publisher even sued Blizzard after the end of the partnership. 

NetEase released a statement back then inferring that their move not to renew their partnership was due to a specific “jerk,” which many believed to be Kotick. The embittered local publishing company’s employees tore down the WoW statue at their office. Many have pointed out that Blizzard and NetEase’s decision to re-enter negotiations was due to the departure of Kotick. The former CEO officially stepped down on December 29, 2023, after 32 years of tenure. This fact further fuels the speculation that Kotick was the reason for the Blizzard-Activision conflict. 

Why Blizzard Needs a Chinese Publishing Partner

China has been strict with its gaming laws to ensure proper regulation among gamers in the region. Foreign companies like Blizzard must partner with a local publisher to release their games into the Chinese market. With support from a domestic company, games will be pulled out and continue their operations. 

Blizzard has been in contact with various Chinese gaming companies since January 2023 to look for a potential publishing partner. Unfortunately, the gaming giant never found a willing local publisher to enter any form of partnership with them. Tencent outright denied any possibility of entering negotiations with Blizzard for unknown reasons. ByteDance and Bilibili were out of the picture due to their current situations. Other companies didn’t provide enough incentive or interest in hosting Blizzard. 

Why is NetEase Considering Blizzard Partnership Once Again

While the departure of Bobby Kotick is one of the primary reasons, another concern why NetEase might decide to partner up with Blizzard again is because of a new Chinese gaming regulation. China has implemented several rules that discourage players from constantly logging in to games and spending their money. These spending limits have negatively impacted the industry’s growth, which has made investors panic in response to these changes.

Tencent and NetEase, which are China’s biggest gaming companies, both suffered from these new regulations. After the implementations, The former lost around 16% of its market value, while the latter lost about 25%. The loss of profit could be another reason why NetEase decided to re-enter negotiations with Blizzards. The re-entry of popular games like World of Warcraft and Overwatch 2 might re-invigorate the company’s shares to ensure stability. 

China has been issuing regulations aimed at cracking down on gaming since 2021. Regulators have imposed strict playtime limits for gamers under 18 and have delayed the introduction of new gaming titles for eight months. While these stringent rules have since mellowed then, the recent announcements have shaken the confidence of investors and companies, which caused shares to plummet. 

When Will World of Warcraft Go Online in China

The news about the Blizzard-NetEase partnership is all but confirmed, so we still have to wait for official announcements from both companies. However, it will take some time before servers can become fully operational once a deal has been made. The preparations could take months, so gamers should expect the re-entry of Blizzard games around mid to late 2024. 

Article source https://blog.playerauctions.com/world-of-warcraft/wow-might-return-to-china-after-blizzard-netease-deal/

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