Through the deal, NetEase has released and operated numerous Blizzard titles in China, however the companies opted not to renew the deal after its expiration on January 23, as they were unable to reach an agreement that satisfied Blizzard. As such, service on the majority of Blizzard games, such as Overwatch and World of Warcraft, is being suspended on January 24. Diablo Immortal, which was co-developed byboth companies, is unaffected due to being covered by a separate agreement.
EaseNet has laid off or arranged the transfers for around 90 percent of the company’s staff, state sources close to the matter. Around ten team members are being kept to handle logistical issues tied to the service suspension, but are unlikely to remain for more than six months. Although Chinese social media has been rife with speculation that the companies could strike a last-minute deal, it appears that the dissolution of the team quashes this possibility.
A blizzard of activity
Despite the suspension of the deal, Blizzard is still concerned with maintaining its presence within China, which remains the world’s largest mobile-first market. As such, the company is actively seeking a new partner, and is reportedly prepared to choose between two possible licensing partners, with insider Dao Lao stating that possible partners include Tencent, ByteDance, Perfect World, and Alibaba.
Although new details haven’t been announced as of yet, it’s likely that Blizzard is eager to finalise a new deal as soon as possible in order to minimise the financial loss incurred by the suspension of services. However, while several companies have sent delegates to the US in order to hammer in a deal, it’s unlikely that any of them will finalise an agreement prior to January 23.
We listed several of the companies named in this article as among the top 50 mobile game makers of 2022.