Blizzard Entertainment has announced it will suspend most Blizzard game services in mainland China due to the expiration of the current licensing agreements with NetEase.
Come January 23, World of Warcraft, Hearthstone, Warcraft 3: Reforged, Overwatch, the StarCraft series, Diablo 3, and Heroes of the Storm.
Blizzard and NetEase have had a licensing agreement since 2008, which covers the publication of Blizzard titles in China.
The reason the two companies are kind of parting ways, is due to the two being able to reach a deal to renew the agreements "that is consistent with Blizzard’s operating principles and commitments to players and employees."
Blizzard said it will suspend new sales of its games in the coming days and Chinese players will be receiving details of how this will work soon.
“We’re immensely grateful for the passion our Chinese community has shown throughout the nearly 20 years we’ve been bringing our games to China through NetEase and other partners,” said Blizzard president Mike Ybarra in a public statement. “Their enthusiasm and creativity inspire us, and we are looking for alternatives to bring our games back to players in the future.”
For its part NetEase said in a statement it is "deeply disappointed" that the respective organizations could not reach "a renewed contractual agreement."
"We have been doing our best to negotiate with Blizzard, doing our best to keep the relationship and to be able to keep providing these games to our gamers' community," said the company in a PR mail.
"Unfortunately we were not able to reach an agreement with Blizzard on some key terms of cooperation. We regret that Blizzard today announced that it will cease cooperation and we will have to accept this decision."
NetEase president Simon Zhu also expressed disappointment in a LinkedIn post and went so far as to state that some "jerk" may have been the cause of it all.
"As a gamer who spent ten thousand hours in the world of Azeroth, Starcraft, and Overwatch, I feel so heartbroken as I will no longer have the access to my account and memories next year," said Zhu (thanks, RPS).
"One day, when what has happened behind the scenes can be told, developers and gamers will have a whole new level of understanding of how much damage a jerk can make. I feel terrible for players who lived in those worlds."
While the two companies remain at odds on publishing agreements, Blizzard did state that since Diablo Immortal’s co-development and publishing are covered under a separate agreement between the two companies, it will remain available in the region.
It also stated that upcoming releases for World of Warcraft: Dragonflight, Hearthstone: March of the Lich King, and Season 2 of Overwatch 2 "will proceed later this year."