Blizzard Entertainment’s popular games, including World of Warcraft, Overwatch, and Diablo 3, may soon no longer be available to Chinese players.
The company’s 14-year distribution partnership with NetEase in China is set to end in October 2022, with NetEase CEO William Ding citing “material differences on key terms” as the reason for the split. Despite the NetEase agreement accounting for 3% of Activision Blizzard’s net revenues in the past year, or $264 million in sales, the company claims to have been operating at a loss.
One potential factor in the discontinuation of Blizzard’s games in China is the Chinese government’s recent restriction on the amount of time children can spend online gaming to one hour on weekends and holidays. World of Warcraft alone has an estimated three million players in China, making it a major source of weekend playtime.
The NetEase WoW servers are also scheduled to be shut down in January 2023, which could indicate that the end of WoW in China.
In addition to World of Warcraft, other Blizzard titles that may no longer be available in China unless the company secures a new local partner include Overwatch, Diablo 3, Hearthstone, Starcraft 2, and Heroes of the Storm. These games have a large and dedicated player base in China, and their potential loss will be a significant blow to gamers in the country. It remains to be seen if Blizzard will be able to find a new distribution partner or if its games will continue to be available to Chinese players in the future.