Technology

Blizzard China: Millions of players lose access to ‘World of Warcraft’ and other games after dark

Blizzard China: Millions of players lose access to ‘World of Warcraft’ and other games after dark

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Hong Kong
CNN

Millions of players in China lost access to the iconic “World of Warcraft” franchise and other popular video games as Blizzard Entertainment’s servers in the country went offline after two decades.

The company’s services in China were suspended at midnight local time on Tuesday, marking the end of an era for fans, following a licensing agreement with long-time local partner NetEase

(NTES)
overdue.

World of Warcraft also known as “WoW,” is an extremely popular online multiplayer game that allows users to battle monsters and travel through expeditions in the medieval world of Azeroth.

Many gamers around the world grew up with hits, including in China. This was highlighted in recent days as Chinese fans expressed their disbelief at the loss of their long-time entertainment in posts on social media.

“When I woke up, I still didn’t want to accept [it]”, one user said on Weibo, China’s Twitter-like platform, on Tuesday. “I cried all night in my sleep because the game was offline. I dreamed that I was crying in the middle of the class.

Another player described “World of Warcraft” as “my first love”.

“I really can’t forget it,” they wrote.

The suspension follows a bitter dispute between Blizzard, a division of Activision Blizzard

(ATV)
and NetEase.

Foreign publishers must work with local partners to offer video games in China. Last November, however, Blizzard and NetEase announced they will not renew the license agreements that were due to expire this month.

Those deals covered the publishing of several popular Blizzard titles in mainland China, including “World of Warcraft,” “Hearthstone” and “Diablo III,” since 2008. In separate statements at the time, both sides said they were unable to reach a new agreement on key terms, without elaborating.

Now the discussions seem to have become more heated.

IN statement last Tuesday, Blizzard said it had contacted NetEase to seek “their assistance in exploring a six-month extension of the current agreement.”

The US company said it urged NetEase to allow fans to continue playing without interruption, “based on our personal feelings as gamers and the frustration expressed to us by Chinese players”.

“Unfortunately, after renewed discussions last week, NetEase did not accept our extension offer,” Blizzard said.

NetEase hit back with its own own statement last week.

In unusually brief comments, the Chinese tech and gaming giant accused Blizzard of blindsides it with its “sudden announcement” and called the US company’s proposal “outrageous, inappropriate and inconsistent with business logic.”

NetEase also pointed out that Blizzard has already “started the work of finding new partners” in China, putting the Hangzhou-based company in an “unfair” position.

The public dispute marks an unexpected turn in the companies’ 14-year partnership.

Under a separate agreement, the companies are working together to co-develop and publish “Diablo Immortal,” another widely followed multiplayer game that lets users slay demons in an ancient world. NetEase said in a statement in November that this cooperation will continue.

blizzard said in December that “World of Warcraft” fans would be able to spare copy their play history and ensure that all progress is saved until they terminate their agreement and look for a new partner.

This week’s shutdown was emotional, even for NetEase’s senior management.

IN Post on LinkedIn On Monday, Simon Zhu, president of global investments and partnerships at NetEase Games, detailed how he grew up with Blizzard games in China, including older titles “Warcraft” and “Diablo.”

“Just [a] a few hours before Blizzard Games servers shut down in China and that’s a very, very big deal for players in China,” he wrote.

“Today is such a sad time to witness the server shutdown and we don’t know how things will play out in the future. The biggest casualty would be the players in China who live and breathe these worlds.”

Activision Blizzard, which previously had another Chinese partner before teaming up with NetEase, said it is continuing to search for a new distribution partner.

“Our commitment to players in mainland China remains strong as we continue to work with Tencent to distribute ‘Call of Duty: Mobile’, as well as continuing active conversations with potential partners to relaunch play for Blizzard’s iconic franchises,” an Activision Blizzard spokesperson told CNN.


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