Activision Blizzard's fall out with NetEase is a confusing mix of misunderstanding at the best of times. Now it seems that NetEase is not suing Activision Blizzard as widely reported yesterday. Rather the Chinese court system allowed a serial litigator to name NetEase as an appellant in his own lawsuit.
In court documents uncovered by Wowhead, it's Yang Jun - a known serial litigator - who filed the suit and named NetEase themselves as one of the appellants. However, he also named The9, a now defunct publishing company under NetEase as well, tipping people off to the less than legitimate nature of the suit.
The original lawsuit focused on accusations that the original deal that saw NetEase publish games by Activision Blizzard in China was inherently unfair, and, in its subsequent break up, left NetEase liable for refunds to players. The very public falling out was a major blow to Blizzard’s Chinese audience, with games such as Hearthstone, Overwatch and World of Warcraft made unavailable to the vast Chinese market.
It seems that Yang Jun is no stranger to legal action regarding NetEase, having previously sued the company itself. It’s unclear why the initial mistake was made, with outlets including Wowhead suggesting either clerical error, or that Jun intentionally filed it incorrectly. In either case the suit has now been updated to reflect that the sole appellant is Yang Jun.
In the lead-up to this clarification, Activision offered a statement which expresses confusion at the purported lawsuit. “We haven’t received the lawsuit yet, but we are confident we aren’t in breach of any licensing agreements. The terms NetEase appears to be complaining about reflect standard industry practice and have been mutually-beneficial for years," they said.
“While this persistent campaign by one former partner is disappointing and puzzling, it’s important to note that we have enjoyed nearly two decades of positive experiences operating in China, and remain committed to serving players and protecting their interests.”
Certainly it’s true to say that NetEase had a lot of ill-will towards Activision Blizzard. After realising the implications of ending their deal, an attempt by Blizzard to secure an extension was met with such a rebuttal that - in a high-profile publicity stunt by NetEase staff - a World of Warcraft statue on Netease property was destroyed, after which staff were seen drinking “Blizzard Green Tea” - speculated by many to be a covert reference to a Chinese internet meme poking fun at people who present a deceptively innocent front but who are in-fact greedy and selfish.
Activision Blizzard’s confusion therefore is certainly justified and they continue to maintain that both parties had a relatively pleasant working relationships up to the breakdown. However, as some outlets speculated, cultural misunderstanding could have played a part in the initial breakup on both company’s parts.
With the revelation of the nature of the suit, it seems that Activision Blizzard is out of hot water, but it's not uncommon for players to make erroneous or inflated legal filings against major companies.