Video games “World of Warcraft”, “Diablo” and “Starcraft” will return to China

Since January 2023, the American Blizzard no longer had access to the Chinese market, the second most lucrative country for the video game industry with a global turnover estimated at 41 billion euros (around 44 billion dollars) in 2023

Video games “World of Warcraft”, “Diablo” and “Starcraft” will return to China

Since January 2023, the American Blizzard no longer had access to the Chinese market, the second most lucrative country for the video game industry with a global turnover estimated at 41 billion euros (around 44 billion dollars) in 2023. At issue: a falling out with the local publisher NetEase which led the latter not to renew its partnership with the owner of the famous Diablo, Starcraft, World of Warcraft or Overwatch licenses.

“After ongoing discussions over the past year, Blizzard [now acquired by Microsoft] and NetEase have agreed on a common path forward,” the two companies announced on April 9.

In a letter sent to Chinese players on the social network Weibo, however, they warned that Blizzard games would not be accessible before the summer – time to resolve technical problems linked to the reactivation of online games. This will be an opportunity for Chinese players to discover Diablo IV, released at the height of the disenchantment between the two companies.

NetEase titles published by Microsoft

The first agreement between the two companies dates back to 2008. The Chinese market being closed to foreign publishers, the American must in fact go through the popular Internet portal 163.com set up by NetEase to offer its games.

The enormous success of World of Warcraft and other Blizzard titles in China has enabled NetEase to experience an irresistible rise in the video games sector, becoming the second largest player in the sector in the country, behind Tencent. Since then, the company has developed its own productions, and in particular, on behalf of Blizzard, the very profitable (and much criticized by Western players upon its release in 2022) Diablo Immortal.

Now in a position of strength against Blizzard, NetEase ended its collaboration with the American in January 2023, for undisclosed reasons. She then virulently attacked her former partner, citing “the lack of consideration” from the Americans.

And if the closure of the Chinese servers of World of Warcraft has sparked numerous messages of anger and sadness among fans of the online role-playing game, the destruction with maces of the colossal ax inspired by the game, which has reigned until now in front of the company's premises in Hangzhou, was widely shared – and liked – on Douyin, the Chinese TikTok.

The amount of the new agreement which made it possible to unblock the situation and reconcile the two structures has not been made public. But one of the announced rewards is that Microsoft, owner of Blizzard since October 2023, will in return publish NetEase games in the rest of the world: “We will explore ways to offer more new titles on Xbox,” said Phil Spencer, CEO of Microsoft Gaming.

NetEase can hope to find a new lever for growth abroad. Like other Chinese tech giants, it has had a difficult few years following government regulatory measures targeting online gaming.