Microsoft helps Blizzard get its games back into China

  • Microsoft and its subsidiary Blizzard Entertainment have announced a renewed agreement with Chinese publisher NetEase.
  • The agreement will see Blizzard’s games return to the Chinese market after Blizzard and NetEase broke up their 14-year deal in 2022.
  • Microsoft and NetEase have also signed a new deal that will see NetEase games heading to Xbox consoles.

After a long and healthy relationship since 2008, Blizzard Entertainment and Chinese game publisher NetEase had a very public falling out. One that immediately meant that Chinese players could no longer play Blizzard’s most popular titles like World of Warcraft, Diablo, Starcraft and Overwatch.

However, on Tuesday, Blizzard announced that its issue with NetEase has been squashed thanks to its owner, Microsoft, who has emerged as a couples counsellor of sorts.

“Video game titles from Blizzard Entertainment that captivated millions of players in China will return to the market sequentially, beginning this summer, under a renewed publishing deal [between] Blizzard Entertainment, Microsoft Gaming, and NetEase,” the company wrote in a press statement.

In 2022, NetEase suddenly dropped Blizzard as its Chinese publisher/distributor, immediately suspended servers in the country for all of Blizzard’s online titles (most of them) and then said it was sorry to see the 14-year relationship ended.

The two companies reportedly could not come to terms on a new deal to see their license renewed. On Blizzard’s side, the company said it could not reach a deal with NetEase that was consistent with its “operating principles and commitments to players and employees.”

While NetEase said that the two firms could not agree on key terms of cooperation. The reveal that Blizzard games would exit the Chinese market was met with sadness from hundreds of thousands of Chinese gamers, many of which grew up playing the company’s titles.

“After continuing discussions over the past year, both Blizzard Entertainment and NetEase are thrilled to align on a path forward to once again support players in mainland China and are proud to reaffirm their commitment to delivering exceptional gaming experiences,” Blizzard said.

One key aspect of the deal, and one that cements Microsoft’s involvement, is that Microsoft Gaming has entered into a separate partnership with NetEase. This new deal will see the two firms “explore bringing new NetEase titles to Xbox consoles and other platforms.”

NetEase is the second largest game publisher in China, behind mega-corporation Tencent Holdings. The deal with Microsoft is a significant one.

“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.


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