The Breakup of Netease and Blizzard: Who Gets Hurt?

On Nov. 17, 2022, Chinese video game players opened their eyes as usual and prepared to start a new day. But none of them would have thought their youth would be over.

On this day, the famous game company Blizzard and its distributor in China, NetEase, released statements saying that after complicated negotiations, the two sides did not agree on renewing their cooperation and would terminate their partnership, shutting down servers in mainland China after the current agreement expired on January 23.

These statements reflect the interests of two game companies not seeking peace with each other, but the damage is in the hearts of thousands of Chinese players.

The cooperation between Blizzard and NetEase started in 2008. Based in a country where the console game industry was extremely underdeveloped, NetEase was the first to extend an olive branch to the then-renowned Blizzard, bringing Blizzard to China.

Over the following years, NetEase partnered with Blizzard to bring world-renowned games such as the StarCraft series, the Diablo series, Hearthstone, Heroes of the Storm and Overwatch to China and to create servers in mainland China.

Since then, countless players forced to play on other regional servers with high latency have joined the mainland China servers and become fans of Blizzard games.

However, a statement last November announced something to this group of players who spent their youth in Blizzard games: these memories of the past will no longer exist.

Since then, the Internet has been wailing. The two statements became a hit on the Chinese social media platform Weibo, reaching over 100 million views. Players mourned the loss of the game they had played for over a decade, and anchors worried about their future live content.

If you have to use a sentence to summarize your true feelings, Chinese World of Warcraft anchor Lei Youzhi said this sentence: “Parents divorce bitter children.”

And as a game lover myself, it’s still sad even though I only have one “Overwatch” account on the Chinese server—the rest are on the US server. This account carries the joyful times I used to play with my classmates. And these times will be gone with this “breakup.”

On January 18, 2023, Blizzard launched the “Player Data Archive” feature, which allows players to download and archive their game data locally. Many players call this the ‘electronic urn.’ The saved file may be less than 200 megabytes, but to every player, it compresses countless late nights and a burning youth.

Unfortunately, even though players raised objections and proposed that the two companies continue to work together, the problem persisted. On Jan. 23, 2023, NetEase officially announced the suspension of Blizzard games. This time, the words “disconnected server” will remain.

Under the storm of the termination, many players feel that the two companies are like divorced parents. Although they claim to have made the right decision, they have worked for profit from the beginning to the end and have never thought about the thousands of players.

Even if it takes months, years, or even more, Blizzard may find a new agent in mainland China again. And NetEase, with countless handheld games in hand, is okay with its revenue. But look at the people who don’t care about the commercial war and purely love the game; who comes to love them?