Drama Ensues Over The End Of Blizzard And NetEase’s Publishing Partnership

blizzard netease logo white bg

Blizzard Entertainment and NetEase’s long-running partnership to publish World of Warcraft and other Blizzard titles in China will officially be coming to an end this Monday. Normally, the end of a publishing deal doesn’t merit a lot, but there seems to be a whole lot of drama surrounding the dissolution of this particular deal as both companies lay the blame on each other’s feet.

The termination of the partnership was announced as early as November with no clear explanation given as to why it was ending aside from a statement from Blizzard saying that they failed to reach an agreement “consistent with Blizzard’s operating principles” and commitments to players and employees.”

NetEase, on the other hand, insisted that they tried with “utmost sincerity” to broker a deal and negotiate with Activision Blizzard, obviously to no avail. NetEase’s Global Investment and Partnership President Simon Zhu later blasted an unnamed Blizzard executive on LinkedIn saying that, “One day, when what has happened behind the scenes could be told, developers and gamers will have a whole new level understanding of how much damage a jerk can make.”

Earlier this week, Blizzard China issued their own statement, revealing that they offered NetEase a last-minute proposal to extend the partnership by six months while they look for a new publisher in the region, which the Chinese publisher unfortunately declined.

“It is a pity that NetEase is not willing to extend services of our game for another six months on the basis of existing terms as we look for a new partner,” posted the studio on the Chinese microblogging site Weibo.

NetEase has since responded with the brutal statement below:

“[…] Last week, Blizzard sought Netease again, proposed the so-called game service extension for six months and other conditions, and made it clear that it would not stop continuing negotiations with other potential partners during the contract extension period. As far as we know, all negotiations between Blizzard and other companies during the same period were based on a three-year contract period. Considering the unequal, unfair and other conditions attached to the cooperation, the two parties failed to reach an agreement in the end.

We believe that Blizzard's proposal - including today's sudden statement - is outrageous, inappropriate, and not in line with business logic. Its excessive self-confidence and behavior of taking whatever it wants, riding a donkey to find a horse, and getting a divorce but still trying to live together, did not take into account its players and NetEase.”

(Translated from Chinese and edited for clarity)

NetEase also cast doubt on Blizzard’s character archiving toolset which will allow Chinese players to download and save their characters for potential use in a future version. “[…] We are obliged to remind all players, this feature by Blizzard is unilaterally proposed and developed online, without NetEase side testing, use, there may be unknown security risks,” said NetEase. “If this feature causes loss of virtual property or inability to play, Blizzard shall bear full responsibility.”

According to Wowhead, some Chinese users have already reported corrupted saves when using the tool. The website also reported that NetEase had dismantled its in-house Blizzard offices and livestreamed the entire affair, including the removal of an orc statue. The studio reportedly capped off the livestream with by rewarding its employees with free “Blizzard Green Tea” from the NetEase coffee shop. Green Tea is apparently a modern Chinese reference to a two-faced, manipulative person.

Meanwhile, what remains of the NetEase-Blizzard team are in the process of shutting down which has already heavily affected both companies’ bottomlines. NetEase in particular has laid off roughly a hundred employees from their Blizzard division and transferred others to different departments.