Monday, April 15, 2024

Blizzard Games To Return To The People's Republic This Summer

In a story I missed last week, Microsoft has made up to NetEase for the sins committed by the Bobby Kotick-led Activision-Blizzard-King and Blizzard games are returning to the People's Republic of China. Reading the coverage of the event, the effects of the agreements will definitely expand past the borders of the world's number two economy.

That's right, two agreements. The first returns many favorite games to China. According to the South China Morning Post:

Confirming an earlier South China Morning Post report, the two companies renewed a publishing agreement that will cover games under the previous arrangement, including World of Warcraft, Hearthstone, and other titles in the Warcraft, Overwatch, Diablo, and StarCraft universes, according to a joint statement on Wednesday. These titles are expected to start returning to mainland China this summer.

“After continuing discussions over the past year, both Blizzard Entertainment and NetEase are thrilled to align on a path forward to once again support players in mainland China and are proud to reaffirm their commitment to delivering exceptional gaming experiences,” according to the statement.

Last January, the two companies suspended services for all Blizzard titles in the mainland, except for Diablo Immortal, a mobile title co-developed by NetEase and Blizzard, as their 14-year partnership came to an end. Both sides blamed each other for treating Chinese players badly after failing to agree to new terms to extend the deal.

A Reuters report came closest to fingering former ABK CEO Bobby Kotick for the breakdown in relations.

A number of Blizzard's games were taken offline in China in January 2023 after the developer terminated the partnership with NetEase citing disagreement over intellectual property control. The pair subsequently sued each other.

Tension eased after Microsoft's October acquisition of Activision Blizzard, which was followed by management changes. Chinese media then reported that Microsoft and NetEase were seeking ways to re-launch Blizzard games in China.

But are Chinese players willing to forgive the pulling of their favorite games away from them for over a year? Not according to The New York Times.

The announcement of the new agreement was shared widely on Weibo, China’s version of X, and the reaction was mostly negative. Some people still seemed upset that the games had not been available for more than a year, while others accused Blizzard of disrespecting Chinese gamers. One person said that were not so “cheap” as to come running back immediately once the games had returned.

But Microsoft and NetEase also signed an agreement about the XBox platform. According to Investopedia:

Separately, NetEase and Microsoft entered into an agreement that would look into bringing new NetEase titles to Microsoft’s Xbox consoles and other platforms.

"NetEase games titles being explored to be brought under Xbox consoles and other platforms is incrementally positive" for the China-based developer and operator of online games, Jefferies added.

One might think the news was good for the stock price of NetEase, which trades on Nasdaq. But after opening at $101.66 on Wednesday, NetEase stock opened the week trading at $93.03 today, a decline of 8.5% in the stock price over 3 business days.

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