Blizzard Entertainment will be suspending key games like Overwatch 2 and World of Warcraft in China because it failed to reach an agreement with partner NetEase, it announced. Those titles along with Hearthstone, Starcraft, Heroes of the Storm, Diablo III and Warcraft III: Reforged will be unavailable in China starting on January 23, 2023. Diablo Immortal, which arrived earlier this year, won't be affected as it's covered by a separate agreement, according to NetEase.
"The two parties have not reached a deal to renew the agreements that is consistent with Blizzard’s operating principles and commitments to players and employees, and the agreements are set to expire in January 2023," Blizzard said in the press release. "We will suspend new sales in the coming days and Chinese players will be receiving details of how this will work soon. Upcoming releases for World of Warcraft: Dragonflight, Hearthstone: March of the Lich King, and season 2 of Overwatch 2 will proceed later this year."
NetEase is China's second largest gaming company and has partnered with Blizzard since 2008. It's a key player for Blizzard in the nation, helping guarantee that its games meet China's strict content requirements. The deal wasn't just about money, but also who owned the the intellectual property and player data, according to Bloomberg.
The longstanding agreement didn't appear to end amicably. "One day, when what has happened behind the scene could be told, developers and gamers will have a whole new level understanding of how much damage a jerk can make," said NetEase's president of global investment and partnership, Simon Zhu, in a LinkedIn post spotted by TechCrunch. Blizzard, meanwhile, said "we are looking for alternatives to bring our games back to players in the future."