Chinese WoW servers shut down after 14 years following expiration of NetEase deal

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Fans of Blizzard games such as World of Warcraft and Overwatch in China are mourning the closure of most Blizzard game services in the country, after Activision Blizzard and China’s NetEase Games did not renew their license agreement. license.

The two companies had been partners for 14 years, and Blizzard’s MMORPG operated in the country for a few years under a separate company before Blizzard and NetEase’s partnership. The handover between WoW’s former operator in China and NetEase in 2009 marked the first time WoW had shut down in the region, albeit for only a few months.

Activision Blizzard announced late last year that it would not renew its contract with NetEase, and that game services would end on January 23. That time has now come, as WoW players in China have been forced to download nearly two decades worth of character data in the hope that the game’s servers will one day return and their characters can be restored.

A veteran WoW player in China documented the final moments of the game in the country in Twitter, stating that the act of downloading his character had begun to be referred to as digital “cremation” among Chinese gamers. Unfortunately, the server shutdown was a quiet affair, as a player downloading their character data prevented them from playing the game and participating in any sort of farewell party.

In a lengthy LinkedIn post titled “A Love Letter: The Memory Remains,” NetEase’s president of global investment and partnerships Simon Zhu personally thanked several Blizzard employees (many of whom are no longer with the company) for their contributions in creating the worlds that have been enjoyed by millions of Chinese gamers.

“Today is such a sad time to witness the server shutdown, and we don’t know how things will develop in the future,” Zhu wrote. “The biggest casualty would be the players in China who live and breathe in those worlds. I also know how hard it will be for the developers at Blizzard who have dedicated all their passion and talent to building those amazing worlds. I hope all those precious memories will never fade away. .”

Activision Blizzard is looking for a new partner in China to distribute its games, but recently sought to renew its contract with NetEase for just six months to avoid a disruption in game services. NetEase rejected that deal citing unfair treatment, as Blizzard reportedly offered other companies three-year deals. Both companies have issued statements essentially accusing the other of the failed deal. NetEase has since disbanded the team responsible for Blizzard games in the region, going so far as to demolish its Blizzard offices and dismantle a live orc statue.

It’s unclear when Blizzard games might return to China. WoW General Manager John Hight stated in December that Blizzard was in talks with “several new distribution partners” and that “the process will continue until we find a viable solution.”

Despite the seemingly bad blood between Blizzard and NetEase, there is one Blizzard game that will still be playable in China: Diablo Immortal. The free mobile game was co-developed by NetEase along with Blizzard and is covered by a separate license agreement between the two companies. NetEase was also reportedly working on a Warcraft mobile MMO until last year, when the project was canceled after Blizzard and NetEase couldn’t agree on financial terms.

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