DiabloAnd starcraftAnd World of WarcraftAnd Hearthstone or Overwatch… Almost all popular licenses produced by the American studio Blizzard, a subsidiary of Activision Blizzard, were scheduled to be inaccessible in China, from the night of Monday, January 23 to Tuesday, January 24, at midnight. Its publishing agreement with China’s NetEase, which has been distributing its games in the country since 2008, has already expired. Blizzard is thus denied access to the world’s largest video game market, representing 36.7 billion euros in 2022 (269 billion yuan), where it has to Foreign companies must enter into an agreement with a Chinese publisher to market their products.
This comment has been formalized by NetEase at “Farewell letter” Released on January 23rd, however, it didn’t come as a surprise. In November 2022, a press release was issued from the creators World of Warcraft They have already announced that they have failed to renew their partnership with the Hangzhou-based publisher, without specifying the sticking points. According to testimonies collected by news agencies Bloomberg and Reuters, the estrangement concerns not only the size of the agreements but also the intellectual property of the securities — a point NetEase denies.
Three months later, the negotiations were still deadlocked. Unfortunately, NetEase has refused to extend the game’s release for another six months while we find a new partner so everyone can continue playing.unfortunately The Californian company in a press release posted on the Weibo social network on January 17.
The Hong Kong Daily notes that the withdrawal of Blizzard’s popular video games from China has become inevitable, and it is also causing great discontent online. South China Morning Post. In an effort not to inflate it, Blizzard announced in December Users can make a complete backup of their progress, characters or collected items, while entering into a new contract with another company.
The rise of the Chinese market
The day after this announcement, NetEase sharply criticized its former partner, in a press release posted on the social network WeChat. The publisher has terminated the contract “unequal and unfair”invoked “lack of consideration” from Americans “For gamers and NetEase”. On the same day, a statue bearing the image of a weapon World of Warcraft It was reportedly dismantled from the garden of NetEase’s headquarters On-site monitors. Refunds have been announced for Blizzard products following the suspension of service.
These public denunciations, rare in the sector, show that the balance of power has shifted between the two former partners. When their agreement was struck in 2008, NetEase was based on Blizzard’s franchises, which accounted for more than 98% of its sales. Propelled by this partnership as a major player in the Chinese market, the humble company has become the second largest publisher in the country, after Tencent. And it achieved $ 13.7 billion (€ 12.7 billion) in sales in 2021, more than Activision Blizzard ($ 8.1 billion, or € 7.5 billion), but it leads in the United States. This sector giant now has the means to buy other studios, for example French Quantic Dream last August, and its catalog is very wide. The exploitation of Blizzard’s licenses covered only 9% of its turnover in 2021: so it is unlikely that losing it would be fatal for it.
However, the break is not complete. NetEase and Blizzard will continue to work together for one game: Immortal Diablo, released in 2022 on PC and Mobile. Unlike the previously mentioned titles, this one was developed by the two entities and therefore benefits from a separate publishing contract.
However, the consolidation of ties between NetEase and Activision Blizzard could foreshadow other arrests in the future. publishing contract Maine Craft Microsoft, also associated with NetEase, ends August. Niko Partners, a company specializing in Asian markets, fears that the same scenario will happen again, especially since in January 2022 Microsoft embarked on … the acquisition of Activision Blizzard.
, The video games “World of Warcraft”, “Hearthstone” and “Starcraft” are now not available in China