World of Warcraft, Overwatch 2 and more Blizzard games have shut down in China
Image: Blizzard Entertainment
Millions of Chinese players are now mourning the loss of their favourite Blizzard games.
Blizzard Entertainment’s games shut down their servers in China this week, rendering beloved titles like World of Warcraft and Overwatch 2 unplayable in the region. Blizzard’s game services went offline at midnight local time on Tuesday, following the expiry of a licensing agreement with its old local partner NetEase.
According to CNN, millions of players in China have since taken to social media platforms like Weibo to mourn the loss of their favourite games - primarily World of Warcraft. One user wrote on Weibo, “When I woke up, I still didn’t want to accept [it]. I cried all night in my sleep because the game went offline. I dreamed that I was crying in the middle of the class.”
Blizzard announced that its games would disappear in mainland China back in November 2022, after negotiations to renew licensing agreements with NetEase fell through. At the time, the company said: “The two parties have not reached a deal to renew the agreements that is consistent with Blizzard's operating principles and commitments to players and employees.”
What at first seemed like a cordial parting of ways between both companies has now turned into a passive aggressive conflict. Last week, Blizzard said that it had asked NetEase for a six-month extension to their expired licensing agreement, “based on our personal feelings as gamers, and the frustration expressed to us by Chinese players.” Blizzard then went on to say that its request was turned down.
NetEase then replied with its own heated statement, saying that Blizzard’s, “sudden statement,” was, “outrageous, inappropriate, and not in line with business logic.” NetEase also mentioned that Blizzard was already looking for new partners to distribute its games in China, which puts it in an ‘unfair’ position. It also criticised Blizzard’s new save transfer functionality for games like World of Warcraft, meant to keep player progress from being deleted, by claiming that the feature hadn’t been tested and could pose security risks.
Things then escalated in hilariously petty fashion. NetEase staff took to a giant World of Warcraft statue situated outside their building and smashed it to pieces, livestreaming the whole thing online for everyone to see. Clips of the stream have found their way online to TikTok and other social media platforms, showing the statue of Warcraft’s two-handed axe Gorehowl meeting its violent end at the hands of disgruntled NetEase staff.
Interestingly, Blizzard and NetEase are still working on Diablo Immortal together in China, seeing as the game was covered under a different agreement between both companies. The mobile action-RPG will continue to receive updates and new content in the country without being affected by ongoing Blizzard-NetEase squabbles.