Millions of gamers in China have lost access to the iconic “World of Warcraft” franchise and other popular video games as Blizzard Entertainment’s servers in the country went offline after two decades.
The company’s services in China were suspended at midnight local time on Tuesday, marking the end of an era for fans, after a licensing agreement with longtime local partner NetEase (NTES) expired.
“World of Warcraft”, also known as “WoW”, is an extremely popular online multiplayer game that allows users to fight monsters and travel through expeditions in the medieval world of Azeroth.
Many gamers around the world have grown with resounding success, including in China. This has been underscored in recent days, as Chinese fans expressed their disbelief at the loss of their longtime hobby in social media posts.
“When I woke up, I still didn’t want to accept [it]said a user on Weibo, China’s Twitter-like platform, on Tuesday. “I cried all night in my sleep because the game disconnected. I dreamed that I was crying in the middle of class.
Another player described “World of Warcraft” as “my first love”.
“I really can’t get over it,” they wrote.
The suspension follows a bitter dispute between Blizzard, a unit of Activision Blizzard (ATVI), and NetEase.
Foreign publishers must work with local partners to bring video games to China. Last November, however, Blizzard and NetEase announced that they would not be renewing licensing agreements that were due to expire this month.
These agreements covered the publication of several popular Blizzard titles in mainland China, including “World of Warcraft”, “Hearthstone” and “Diablo III”, since 2008. In separate statements at the time, the two parties said that they were unable to reach new agreement on key terms without providing further details.
Now the discussions seem to have become more acrimonious.
In a statement on Tuesday, Blizzard said it reached out to NetEase to seek “their assistance in exploring a six-month extension to the current agreement.”
The US-based company said it called on NetEase to allow fans to continue playing without interruption, “based on our personal feelings as gamers and the frustration expressed to us by Chinese gamers.”
“Unfortunately, after further discussions last week, NetEase did not accept our extension proposal,” Blizzard said.
NetEase hit back with its own statement last week.
In unusually terse comments, the Chinese tech and gaming giant accused Blizzard of having caught it off guard with its “sudden statement” and called the US company’s proposal “outrageous, inappropriate and inconsistent with the business logic.
NetEase also pointed out that Blizzard had already “begun the work of finding new partners” in China, putting the Hangzhou-based company in an “unfair” position.
The public feud marked an unexpected twist in the companies’ 14-year partnership.
Under a separate deal, the companies are working together on the joint development and publication of “Diablo Immortal,” another widely followed multiplayer game that lets users slay demons in an ancient world. NetEase said in a statement in November that this collaboration would continue.
Snow storm said in December that “World of Warcraft” fans would be able to save their game history and ensure all progress was saved as he ended his deal and sought a new partner.
This week’s shutdown was emotional even for NetEase’s senior management.
In a LinkedIn post on Monday, Simon Zhu, president of global investments and partnerships at NetEase Games, explained how he grew up with Blizzard games in China, including former titles “Warcraft” and “Diablo.”
“Alone [a] hours before the Blizzard Games servers in China shut down, and this is a very big deal for gamers in China,” he wrote.
“Today is such a sad time to witness the server downtime, and we don’t know how things will go in the future. The biggest victim would be the players in China who live and breathe these worlds. »
Activision Blizzard, which previously had another Chinese partner before partnering with NetEase, said it is continuing its search for a new distribution partner.
“Our commitment to mainland Chinese players remains strong as we continue to work with Tencent to distribute ‘Call of Duty: Mobile’, as well as continue active discussions with potential partners to recapture gameplay from Blizzard’s iconic franchises,” an Activision spokesperson said. Blizzard to CNN.