Today, NetEase has disbanded the local team that works on several Blizzard titles that have been licensed from Blizzard Entertainment, according to a recent report by the South China Morning Post. This happened because the 14-year, non-renewable deal between the two companies expires on January 23 of this year.
Once the deal is done, several Blizzard titles will suspend their online service in China, including the following:
- World of Warcraft
- Heroes of the Storm
In addition, all sales of new games in China will be suspended effective November 23, 2022 and all existing Blizzard game products and services will be terminated at 0:00 AM CST on January 24, 2023. Activision Blizzard will work with NetEase to formulate refund planning with express Commitment to protect players’ assets and data.
What will happen to the development team? Well, according to the South China Morning Post, most of the employees have either been laid off or rehired. The only people left from this subsidiary will be a staff of 10 who will handle customer service and technical issues after the deal expires. The team will relocate after six months.
Some readers may notice that we haven’t mentioned one Blizzard title in particular: Diablo Immortal. Well, it looks like this game will continue to be available despite the current situation. This is because the mobile game developed by both NetEase and Blizzard is currently under a separate agreement and is operated by NetEase itself. Needless to say, the NetEase team was also not affected by the job cuts.
It was also reported that in December, Activision Blizzard was negotiating with some potential distribution partners in China. However, although several Chinese companies have sent delegates to the US for talks, none seem to have struck a deal with the company before January 23rd.