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We May Not See the Next Chinese Partner of Blizzard Entertainment Soon

By Johnson Ge
Nov. 19, 2022 updated 02:30

On November 17th, NetEase officially responded to the suspended cooperation with Blizzard Entertainment one day after Blizzard announced it. The discussion around the reason for splitting has become a slapstick due to the different explanations on both sides, the dramatic "jerk" quote of Simon Zhu, President of Global Investment and Partnership of NetEase Games, and various rumors from either press or individuals.

A screenshot of the announcement of Blizzard EntertainmentA screenshot of the announcement of Blizzard Entertainment

Many are wondering a more important question: who will be the next partner to cooperate with Blizzard in the China market? Or if there will be a next partner at all? The answer may not be ideal for Blizzard games players in China.

NetEase is not Blizzard's first partner in China. The9 Limited was the publisher of World of Warcraft in China until NetEase took the publish right in 2009. In fact, NetEase had prepared for the change since 2008, so it did not take long. The World of Warcraft only had less than two months of downtime. However, changing the publisher still left multiple issues impacting the players' experience due to several policy restrictions. As a result, the Chinese World of Warcraft players had waited an extra year and one month to get the heavily delayed expansion Wrath of the Lich King.

The service termination of World of Warcraft has reported by CCTV in 2009The service termination of World of Warcraft has reported by CCTV in 2009

The situation in 2022 may be worse than in 2009. At that time, World of Warcraft was the only game involved and today there are 7 Blizzard games published by NetEase. Things could be way more complicated. According to NPPA's policy, if a foreign game changes its publisher in China, the new publisher must restart the review process and acquire a new license for the game. There is no new game license for foreign video games for more than 500 days. It will be an extremely hard for the new publisher to get the licenses for all 7 games.

The last available license of the World of Warcraft is the expansion Legion. The release of the following expansions may be like walking on the ice for NetEase, which could explain why they haven't changed the games' login window for years.

A screenshot of the World of Warcraft login window.A screenshot of the World of Warcraft login window.

It cannot be ignored that the game industry in China has also greatly changed. In 2009, World of Warcraft is kind of the "Must Play" game among players in China. The9 Limited's 90% revenue came from World of Warcraft on that day, and it was a golden goose that anyone wanted to have. In 2022, NetEase mentioned in its latest financial report (released on November 17th) that "the income from World of Warcraft only takes less than 10% of total income". The reputation of Blizzard among players is not the same thing nowadays. Many players, including Blizzard game enthusiasts in China, committed they had lost their passion for Blizzard games due to multiple unsatisfied company decisions.

A screenshot of Simon Zhu's LinkedIn where he commented on the suspension as "damage a jerk can make."A screenshot of Simon Zhu's LinkedIn where he commented on the suspension as "damage a jerk can make."

Some people think the big companies with the potential to take over the publishing rights from NetEase may consider it more trouble than profit.

A meme picture made by enthusiasts jokes about what if Tencent becomes the publisher of Overwatch.A meme picture made by enthusiasts jokes about what if Tencent becomes the publisher of Overwatch.

Though players couldn't stop worrying about the Blizzard game's future, some still find a way to rejoice in pain. Someone joked, "It feels like 2009 when we experienced a game publisher change before the Wrath of the Lich King expansion was released. Isn't that what World of Warcraft: Classic supposing to do: bring you back to the good old days?"

A screenshot of the World of Warcraft: Classic joke.A screenshot of the World of Warcraft: Classic joke.

Source: YYS