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Blizzard’s games will return to China this summer after company makes up with NetEase

What just happened? Blizzard Entertainment has kissed and made up with NetEase over a year after an acrimonious split that saw its games pulled from the Chinese market. The two companies have officially announced that they are working together again in a deal that will come into effect this summer, bringing the likes of Warcraft, Overwatch, Diablo, and StarCraft back to China.

Blizzard announced back in November 2022 that the agreement with NetEase allowing it to publish games in mainland China since 2008 would expire on January 23, 2023, the result of the two parties failing to reach a deal to renew the license. Blizzard at the time said it could not come to an agreement consistent with its “operating principles and commitments to players and employees.”

The split was an unpleasant one, with both sides hurling accusations at each other following the breakdown of talks. NetEase filed lawsuits against Blizzard over the refunds it had to pay affected gamers. Blizzard responded with lawsuits of its own, claiming property infringement and unfair competition over a NetEase game called Justice, which was designed to attract WoW fans who’d lost access to their favorite MMORPG.

Blizzard also blamed NetEase for the games shuttering in China because the company wouldn’t extend the deal for another six months while it looked for another publishing partner in China — a requirement for foreign companies under the country’s rules. One NetEase executive said that the deal extension fell apart because of one certain “jerk,” who may or may not have recently expressed an interest in buying TikTok.

There were reports that the two firms had settled their differences and struck a new deal back in December. Now, the reunion has been officially confirmed. Blizzard owner Microsoft said it has entered a separate agreement with NetEase to bring its games to Xbox and other platforms.

“Blizzard’s universes have been part of players’ lives in the region for many years. Returning Blizzard’s legendary games to players in China while exploring ways to bring more new titles to Xbox demonstrates our commitment to bringing more games to more players around the world,” said Phil Spencer, CEO of Microsoft Gaming.

It was likely Microsoft’s influence that helped bring Blizzard games back to China. The company has reportedly been playing a positive and active role in the negotiations since late last year.

“We are thrilled to embark on the next chapter, built on trust and mutual respect, to serve our users in this unique community that we’ve built together,” said William Ding, Chief Executive Officer and Director, NetEase.

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