NetEase to Reintroduce World of Warcraft and Blizzard Games in China

Chinese gaming giant NetEase has announced the anticipated return of popular titles like World of Warcraft to the Chinese market this summer, following the termination of its partnership with game developer Activision Blizzard last year due to disagreements over intellectual property rights.

The dissolution of the 14-year collaboration between NetEase and Activision Blizzard elicited widespread concern among millions of Chinese gamers, who feared losing access to their beloved games. Operating games in China necessitates approval from the Chinese government and collaboration with a local publisher.

The rift between the two companies escalated into legal disputes before subsiding after Microsoft’s acquisition of Activision Blizzard for a record-breaking $69 billion in October 2023, marking a significant shift in the gaming industry landscape.

Johanna Faries, president of Blizzard Entertainment, expressed gratitude for the enduring support of Chinese gamers and reaffirmed the company’s commitment to reintroducing its iconic franchises with excellence.

Aside from World of Warcraft, other Blizzard titles slated for reentry into the Chinese market include Hearthstone, Warcraft, Overwatch, Diablo, and the StarCraft series. China, as the world’s largest online gaming market, saw its domestic gaming revenue reach $42 billion at the end of last year, underscoring the significance of this move by NetEase.

NetEase, the second-largest video game company in China after Tencent, also announced plans to collaborate with Microsoft to explore opportunities for introducing new NetEase titles to Microsoft’s gaming platforms, including Xbox consoles.

Phil Spencer, CEO of Microsoft Gaming, emphasised the company’s dedication to expanding gaming access globally and reintroducing Blizzard’s iconic games to the Chinese audience.

However, China’s gaming sector has faced regulatory challenges, including restrictions on gaming hours for minors and limitations on in-game purchases, as part of efforts to address concerns about excessive gaming. Despite these regulatory hurdles, China appears to be revising its strict gaming policies in response to evolving dynamics within the gaming industry.

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