World of Warcraft Set To Close Down In China

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World of Warcraft is finally set to close down, as early as next week in China.

World of Warcraft, one of the most popular massively multiplayer online role-playing games (MMORPGs) in the world, is set to close down in China. The game’s publisher in China, NetEase, has been unable to come to any form of deal with the game’s developer, Blizzard Entertainment, to continue operating the game in the country.

world of warcraft: activation blizzard

This news has come as a shock to the millions of World of Warcraft players in China, many of whom have been playing the game for over a decade. The game has a dedicated and passionate player base in China, and its closure will leave a significant hole in the country’s gaming community.

What about the Chinese players?

This decision has made many Chinese players sad and disappointed as they have invested a lot of time and effort into the game. Many have formed friendships and communities within the game and now fear for the future of their characters.

Blizzard has attempted to ease the transition by creating a function that allows players to download files that record their progress, in hopes that they can one day resume playing when (or if) another operator of the popular online games can be found. But the future of World of Warcraft in China remains uncertain.

Why is World of Warcraft closing down in China?

This story starts in late 2022, when Blizzard warned that its licensing agreement with an outfit called NetEase – which operates its games in China – was due to expire on January 23, 2023. At the time, Blizzard stated it had “not reached a deal to renew the agreements” with NetEase, but noted they’d done business since 2008.

Blizzard’s Chinese operation posted a statement telling players that it had been unable to renegotiate its deal with NetEase and was looking for alternate partners. It explained that the Chinese company had not even entertained an extension to current arrangements.

How can World of Warcraft stay online in China?

If Microsoft can pull off the acquisition of Activision, Blizzard’s parent company, the software leviathan is a strong candidate for that role. But the prospects of the deal happening in a hurry are not good, thanks to lawsuits and regulatory complications. NetEase responded to Blizzard with insults in its own social media posts. As reproduced in Chinese media the statement accused Blizzard of negotiating in bad faith, unilaterally implementing the save progress feature in ways that mean NetEase cannot guarantee its security or functionality, and acting against gamers’ interests.

What else has NetEase said and done?

NetEase also pointed out that it was not comfortable negotiating with Blizzard while the US-based gaming giant talked to other prospective partners. The tirade includes terms that could constitute a crude sexual insult related to engaging multiple partners at once. The company even used LinkedIn to criticize Blizzard’s actions to an international audience.

The Chinese concern flagged the end of its partnership with Blizzard in November 2022, when it told shareholders the games it licensed delivered “low single digits as a percentage of NetEase’s total net revenues and net income in 2021 and in the first nine months of 2022.”

NetEase also stated it [the company] has advised investors that ending the license would have “no material impact on NetEase’s financial results.”

World of Warcraft: Dragonflight

World of Warcraft in China and it’s player base

China is thought to be the largest source of World of Warcraft players, with over three million signed up. If losing those won’t cause NetEase any material financial pain, perhaps Blizzard had the far more favorable end of the licensing deal and the Chinese partner is better off not doing whatever it takes to keep all those gamers online.

The deal between Blizzard and NetEase covers World of Warcraft, Hearthstone, Warcraft III: Reforged, Overwatch, the StarCraft series, Diablo III, and Heroes of the Storm. The two have a separate deal covering Diablo Immortal, which NetEase will continue to offer in the Middle Kingdom. There’s no sign that Beijing, which frowns upon gaming, has let NetEase know it would be happiest if it stopped dealing with Blizzard.

Causes of Closure:

  • Trade tensions between China and the United States
  • Stricter government regulations on the gaming industry
  • Difficulty for foreign companies to operate in China

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