Blizzard's joining up with Chinese publisher NetEase to distribute its upcoming RTS StarCraft II
in China, an early start on building a global audience for the title.
NetEase is the second-largest online game publisher in China in terms of revenue, with a 12.8 percent market share, according to a recent study
. It's best known for publishing Fantasy Westward Journey
(Journey to the West
VentureBeat reports Blizzard and NetEase signed a three-year deal
with a mutual renewal clause, and that the two companies will collaborate on the game's support architecture for the region.
Blizzard has had for many years a relationship with Chinese online game operator The9, which exclusively publishes World of Warcraft
and its expansions in China, including an agreement earlier this year for The9 to publish
the upcoming Wrath of the Lich King
The9, however, is partially owned by Electronic Arts, rival to Activision Blizzard, and VentureBeat speculates industry competition might have played a role in Blizzard's decision to choose a different partner for StarCraft II
Blizzard first unveiled Starcraft II
, a sequel to its seminal 1998 PC real-time strategy game, at its Blizzard Invitational event in South Korea last year. Blizzard CEO Mike Morhaime said at the time that "we’ll be able to do everything we wanted to do with the original StarCraft
The original game is a long-loved fan favorite, but failed to garner the sheer user numbers of Blizzard's other marquee franchises, World of Warcraft
. With the infrastructure for distribution in China's thriving online game business established prior to launch, it opens the door for Blizzard to elevate the sequel's userbase beyond that of its predecessor.