WoW: 100,000 players lose their favorite MMORPG

Leksand extended the winning streak beat AIK

Blizzard and NetEase worked together for 14 years to release games like Diablo, World of Warcraft or Overwatch in China. In January 2023, the partnership, which is said to have brought in annual sales of 750 million US dollars, came to an abrupt end. Now the New York Times reports on the background.

This is what we knew so far:

  • To do business in China, western companies need a local partner. For Activision Blizzard it was the NetEase company for 14 years: Blizzard games such as WoW, Diablo 3 or Overwatch were published in China. The deal is said to have brought in about $750 million in annual sales.
  • But there was a rift between the two companies in 2023 and the agreement broke. NetEase blamed Blizzard and responded with anger and fury. Blizzard kept a low profile as to why the deal ended.
  • In any case, all of Blizzard’s game servers went offline in January. A total of 3 million players are said to have been affected by the end of the games, around 100,000 players in WoW alone lost their homes. The Overwatch League, which has its own Chinese teams, also seems to have been hit hard by the end of the deal.
  • Apparently, Blizzard didn’t really want the deal to end. They even made last-minute offers to salvage the deal. But NetEase was apparently so angry with Blizzard at the time that they even smashed their orc statue.

    How did it happen that the business partners parted in a dispute?

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    Activision Blizzard boss reportedly felt threatened

    What is the new info? The New York Times is now reporting what is said to have led to the two companies splitting up.

    In October 2021 there is said to have been a conversation between Activision Blizzard and NetEase. The conversation was via a Zoom call. But both sides would have interpreted what was being talked about very differently:

  • NetEase is said to have seen their behavior as “accommodating”.
  • But Activision Blizzard interpreted their behavior as a “threat”.
  • It is said that NetEase was dissatisfied with the situation even before the negotiation: Activision Blizzard boss Bobby Kotick had made increasingly outrageous demands in the years before. In 2018, NetEase would have invested $100 million in the developer Bungie, which was then still partnered with Activision Blizzard. Kotick had criticized this investment, however, because Bungie had already defaulted on Destiny.

    NetEase, in turn, wanted to change the deal with Activision to hedge against the Chinese government’s growing pressure on tech companies:

  • NetEase wanted Activision to disclose more internal data to appease Chinese regulators.
  • They also wanted to have more influence on the games to be more in line with the new rules in China.
  • Kotick is always criticized – especially by the community.

    Kotick believed NetEase was trying to blackmail him by “vetoing” Microsoft deal

    But something must have finally gone wrong in the October 2022 call. As the New York Times reports, the conversation was conducted through translators and at some point they talked about the planned deal with which Microsoft wants to buy Activision Blizzard and that the “okay” of the regulatory authorities worldwide is needed for this.

    Kotick understood the situation to mean that NetEase threatened him that they would persuade the Chinese government to block the deal – depending on how the negotiations between Activision Blizzard and NetEase now go.

    However, NetEase denies that such hints were made.

    Apparently, Kotick’s feeling of being blackmailed led to a premature end to the negotiations.

    The New York Times reports that the two companies broke off talks a month after the Zoom call.

    Conversations go so bad NetEase destroys Blizzard statue

    Later, Activision apparently made an offer to NetEase. NetEase should pay $500 million up front. Blizzard apparently wanted to prevent the games from being copied or falling into the hands of the Chinese government. However, the proposal was perceived as very bold by the Chinese side.

    It is said that Activision Blizzard offered NetEase a 6-month extension of the existing deal at the last minute – but NetEase then rejected the extension as unfair. NetEase said it’s like “living together even though you’re already divorced.”

    Eventually the games went offline and 100,000 players in WoW alone were left homeless.

    NetEase destroyed Blizzard’s World of Warcraft sculpture in front of 30,000 people:

    After Blizzard separation: NetEase freaks out, destroys orc statue and insults wildly