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Blizzard will suspend World of Warcraft in China over a licensing dispute

Blizzard will suspend games in China because it cannot reach an agreement with its licensing and publishing partner NetEase, it said in a statement press release. World of Warcraft, Hearthstone, Overlook 2, Starcraft, heroes of the storm, Diablo IIIand Warcraft III: Reforged will not be available in China after January 23, 2023.

Blizzard will suspend game sales and provide guidance to Chinese players “in the coming days,” the press release said, which offered no specific timeline. Development of Diablo Immortal is in a separate agreement and will continue, NetEase said in a statement. Upcoming releases, including the latest World of Warcraft expansion, dragon flightt, and the second season of Overlook 2“will continue later this year,” according to Blizzard.

NetEase, the second largest gaming company in China, has been publishing games for Blizzard since 2008. The partnership ensures that Blizzard’s games adhere to China’s strict content policies. NetEase is also a franchisee in Blizzard’s Overwatch League and owns the Shanghai Dragons team. In August, the two companies could not agree on the terms of a deal and canceled one World of Warcraft mobile game, Bloomberg reported.

The issues weren’t just the financial terms of the deal — who owned the intellectual property and player data was also at stake, Bloomberg reported, citing anonymous sources.

“We are immensely grateful for the passion our Chinese community has shown during the nearly 20 years we’ve brought our games to China,” Blizzard Entertainment president Mike Ybarra said in the press release. “We are looking for alternatives to bring our games back to players in the future.”

Revenue from these games “represented low-single digits as a percentage” of NetEase’s total revenue, said the company.

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