Acrimony abounds as the Blizzard NetEase divorce gets sour.
WoW Wednesday: A New Twist in the Blizzard Netease Break-Up
For those that don't know, the partnership between Blizzard and NetEase is (or was) one that was born out of necessity - which is rarely a great start to any relationship. This is because no foreign company can publish a video game in China without a Chinese publisher taking the reins.
The Blizzard Netease relationship brought World of Warcraft to China and kept Blizzard's foot firmly in the door of one of the world's most lucrative gaming markets. Until now.
In a series of events that wouldn't be out of place in a soap opera, Blizzard and NetEase cut ties after nearly fourteen years. It's fair to say that it came as a surprise to many given that Blizzard and NetEase have enjoyed one of the most successful partnerships in gaming history.
While it's not clear what exactly caused the Blizzard Netease split, both parties have released statements:
NetEase CEO William Ding said: "We have put in a great deal of effort and tried with our utmost sincerity to negotiate with Activision Blizzard so that we could continue our collaboration and serve the many dedicated players in China [...] However, there were material differences on key terms and we could not reach an agreement."
Meanwhile, Blizzard stated they could not agree on a deal that was "consistent with Blizzard's operating principles and commitments to players and employees." They made it clear they would be looking for new regional partners so that they could continue to provide their games in China.
But just months after the bombshell, Blizzard has come crawling back, suggesting that the two extend the partnership for another six months while Blizzard searches for another partner. Which is a pretty audacious move, no matter how you slice it. And suffice to say, the claws are now out.
"Considering the non-reciprocity, unfairness and other strict conditions attached to the cooperation, the parties could not reach an agreement in the end," said NetEase in a new statement, adding that Blizzard is "seeking a divorce but still remaining attached."
It was an unsurprising response, with Blizzard's apparent ethos of "don't ask, don't get" falling flat on its face and leaving them without a publisher for the foreseeable future. Consequently, World of Warcraft will not be available in China from January 23rd. Other games affected include: Diablo 3, Hearthstone, Heroes of the Storm, Overwatch, StarCraft and Warcraft 3: Reforged.
The jury is out on what caused the rift to start with, but with a move as cheeky as Blizzard's, we don't expect it to be mended any time soon. And we'll see whether this public airing of dirty laundry might affect potential future deals.