There aren’t many popular titles from outside the country available to players in the severely constrained Chinese gaming industry. Popular Blizzard franchises like Warcraft and Overwatch have succeeded, but due to a dispute between the parties, they are now being shut down.
One of the most influential online games in history, World of Warcraft, is scheduled to go down today in China.
A 14-year agreement will come to an end as a result of a very public conflict between publisher NetEase and developer Blizzard. Millions of gamers will be forced to say goodbye to their fanciful avatars in an emotional manner.
Warcraft, which had its North American debut in 2004, had been first authorized to enter the severely censored Chinese gaming industry back in 2005.
Since 2008, NetEase, which also manages customized versions of a few other well-known Western games like Minecraft, has been in charge of maintaining the servers for Blizzard’s massively multiplayer game in China.
Activision is the owner of Blizzard. Blizzard, the video game behemoth that Microsoft is attempting to acquire for a record $69 billion (£56 billion), initially stated that its agreement with NetEase will expire last November.
It affects not only Warcraft, which has three million players in China according to estimates, but also Blizzard’s other top games including the shooter multiplayer game Overwatch, the card game Hearthstone, and the sci-fi strategy game Starcraft.
A vulgar quarrel goes public
Simon Zhu, the head of global investment at NetEase, made a devastating comment about the split by claiming he had spent “10,000 hours” playing such games.
Developers and gamers will one day have a completely new level of awareness of the damage a jerk can cause, he said on LinkedIn, when what transpired behind the scenes may be revealed.
Early this month, NetEase declined a request from Blizzard to extend the contract by six months, calling the request “commercially irrational” and charging Blizzard of “seeking a divorce but yet being connected.”
According to Reuters news agency, which cited a Blizzard insider, NetEase wanted structural changes that would affect the US company’s control over its intellectual property (IP).
Throughout the 14-year arrangement, NetEase stated that “all usage and licensing of Blizzard’s IP were done in line with contract conditions and with Blizzard’s authorization and approval.”
A NetEase spokeswoman told Sky News: “We want to clarify that we have never tried to take ownership of IP from Activision Blizzard – it is an erroneous charge.”
The manner they had intended to go on working with Activision Blizzard “would have been no different from how other firms cooperate in our industry to license and manage online games,” they continued.
The initial 2008 agreement between the firms was previously extended to 2019.
Players are welcome to create characters
Blizzard took the uncommon step of letting their Chinese Warcraft players download their characters and progress, which for some may span thousands upon thousands of hours, prior to the agreement expiring on Monday.
If Blizzard finds a new distribution partner in China, which continues to be one of the most lucrative countries despite government limitations, their data will be able to be uploaded back into the game.
Although its relationship with Blizzard played a significant role in NetEase’s growth to become China’s second-largest gaming firm, its own games now generate more than 60% of its income.
The leading company in the sector is Tencent, which also produces its own games. Riot, the company behind League of Legends, is owned by Tencent, along with shares in Ubisoft and Epic Games, as well as the makers of Fortnite and Assassin’s Creed.