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Microsoft renews Blizzard and NetEase partnership to bring key titles back to China

The two megacorps have rekindled their relationship following a high-profile split in 2022.

Chris Kerr, News Editor

April 10, 2024

2 Min Read
Artwork depicting key characters from Blizzard's core franchises
Image via Blizzard

Blizzard's new parent company Microsoft has convinced the World of Warcraft maker and NetEase to bury the hatchet so it can bring some of its most popular video games to China.

Earlier today, Microsoft announced that Blizzard and NetEase have renewed an agreement to bring "beloved titles" to China, including World of Warcraft, Hearthstone, and other games in the Warcraft, Overwatch, Diablo, and StarCraft universes.

Notably, Microsoft has also entered into a "broader collaboration" with NetEase based on a "shared desire to bring new gaming experiences to players across platforms and markets."

The news means a litany of Blizzard titles will be returning to the market in mainland China starting this summer. Microsoft explained the renewed publishing deal was the result of discussions that took place over the course of the year, and said both Blizzard and NetEase are "thrilled" with the outcome.

Blizzard and NetEase were not always "thrilled"

That messaging is a far cry from the statements both companies released before Microsoft stepped in to mediate as Blizzard's new owner.

When announcing the initial split in November 2022, Blizzard said it had been unable to renew its agreement with NetEase in a way that was consistent with its own "operating principles and commitments to players and employees."

At the same time, NetEase told investors it had been negotiating with the "utmost sincerity" but that "material differences on key terms" created an impasse. Curiously, it also said the expiration of the licensing deal wouldn't have a material impact on its fiscal results, suggesting Blizzard's roster wasn't exactly a huge revenue driver.

Blizzard said it had met with "several potential partners" in China followings its split from NetEase, but now it seems the duo–which worked together for 15 years before parting ways–have decided to give things another go.

"We at Blizzard are thrilled to reestablish our partnership with NetEase and to work together, with deep appreciation for the collaboration between our teams, to deliver legendary gaming experiences to players in China," said Johanna Faries, president of Blizzard Entertainment.

"We are immensely grateful for the passion the Chinese community has shown for Blizzard games throughout the years, and we are focused on bringing our universes back to players with excellence and dedication."

NetEase CEO and director William Ding said the next chapter in the partnership is "built on trust and mutual respect" and represents a commitment to providing more "exhilarating and creative" entertainment experiences.

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About the Author(s)

Chris Kerr

News Editor, GameDeveloper.com

Game Developer news editor Chris Kerr is an award-winning journalist and reporter with over a decade of experience in the game industry. His byline has appeared in notable print and digital publications including Edge, Stuff, Wireframe, International Business Times, and PocketGamer.biz. Throughout his career, Chris has covered major industry events including GDC, PAX Australia, Gamescom, Paris Games Week, and Develop Brighton. He has featured on the judging panel at The Develop Star Awards on multiple occasions and appeared on BBC Radio 5 Live to discuss breaking news.

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