Microsoft saves the day: Activision Blizzard games are set to return to China in new NetEase deal

The untimely end of Activision Blizzard and NetEase’s deal meant that games such as Overwatch and World of Warcraft have spent over a year offline in China

Date Type Companies involved Size
April 10th, 2024 partnership Activision Blizzard
Not disclosed
Microsoft saves the day: Activision Blizzard games are set to return to China in new NetEase deal

NetEase and Activision Blizzard have finally made ammends, and it’s all thanks to Microsoft.

Blizzard games such as Hearthstone, World of Warcraft, and Overwatch are due to relaunch in China starting this summer, meaning a return to strong revenue flow for everyone involved.

Times of strife

The fallout between Activision Blizzard and NetEase in 2022 was a lose-lose for everyone. NetEase originally asked for more money to allow Blizzard games to continue operating in China, but when Activision Blizzard refused the 14-year partnership broke down. Without a local partner to host and publish the games, China booted them from the market and Chinese players lost access to a raft of hits, meaning no more revenue from the region for both Activision Blizzard and Netease.

By January 2023, Activision Blizzard was believed to be in the final stages of organising a return to China with a new partner, but this too fell through and the gaming giant had to crawl back on its knees to NetEase - offering a six-month partnership.

Which NetEase refused.

In the end, it’s taken Activision Blizzard’s new owner Microsoft to get things back on track, heroically swooping in to save the day for all companies involved - and, of course, for the players who have been waiting a year for their favourite games to come back online.

Forging new friendships

How much of NetEase’s change of heart is down purely to Microsoft’s scale and sway, and how much is charming the right people, is unknown. Perhaps the change in management plays a large role? With Bobby Kotick and Mike Ybarra both out - formerly Activision Blizzard CEO and Blizzard Entertainment president respectively - it seems that talks have been allowed to begin afresh.

Or perhaps Microsoft simply offered terms too good to refuse. The tech giant has - as part of the new deal - secured an agreement of its own for Microsoft Gaming meaning that new NetEase games may well make their way onto Xbox in the future.

"Blizzard and NetEase have done incredible work to renew our commitment to players - 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 Microsoft Gaming CEO Phil Spencer (left in our picture).

Blizzard Entertainment’s new president Johanna Faries (right) commented: "We at Blizzard are thrilled to reestablish our partnership with NetEase and to work together, with deep appreciation for the collaboration between our teams, to deliver legendary gaming experiences to players in China.

"We are immensely grateful for the passion the Chinese community has shown for Blizzard games throughout the years, and we are focused on bringing our universes back to players with excellence and dedication."

While NetEase CEO and director William Ding added: "Celebrating our collaborations, 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."

Leo Olebe recently moved from Google to Microsoft as the latter's new VP of global partnerships.

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