Looks Like Overwatch 2 And Other Blizzard Games Are Coming Back To China

Looks Like Overwatch 2 And Other Blizzard Games Are Coming Back To China

In 2022, game studio Blizzard and Chinese internet provider and gaming giant NetEase failed to come to an agreement, ending their 14-year relationship and effectively pulling the former’s marquee titles from Chinese markets. It was a tough blow to both parties, whose partnership helped bring huge titles like World of Warcraft, StarCraft 2, and most recently, Overwatch 2, to a massive region of the world. Negotiations reportedly fell through due to messy communications between the two, when at one point NetEase made a “conciliatory gesture” to sway Chinese regulators on Microsoft’s then-pending acquisition of Activision-Blizzard. Activision-Blizzard’s reps mistook the offer as a threat, and at that point talks stalled and eventually fell apart.

Suspensions of sales soon followed and by the beginning of 2023, Blizzard games had been mostly pulled from Chinese storefronts, save for titles like Diablo Immortal that had separate contracts.

Flash forward to 2024—and a few upheavals later—and it seems like Blizzard’s games are due to come back to China through a new deal with NetEase. At least that’s what local reporting is suggesting after Activision-Blizzard CEO Johanna Faries was spotted with NetEase CEO Ding Lei leaked on social media. Analyst CN Wire broke the news that the meeting was a sign of renewed negotiations between the two parties, and claimed that NetEase would be announcing the return of Blizzard’s games as soon as Wednesday. In response to the news, NetEase’s stock shot up a few points.

Local reports corroborated news of the deal, seemingly solidifying the imminent comeback. The South China Morning Post reported that the announcement would indeed be coming Wednesday, but one of its sources told the paper that it’d probably still be “at least another month for Blizzard games to finally return.” Additionally, the SCMP’s source claimed that Activision-Blizzard’s new owner Microsoft has reportedly played “a positive and active role” during negotiations, which picked up late last year.

The deal could not come at a better time for Activision-Blizzard, whose profile of games have been suffering of late. Overwatch 2 in particular has never really emerged from the tumultuous position it launched in. A slew of teams under the Acti-Blizz banner were also rocked by layoffs earlier this year, resulting in game cancellations and the reported shelving of Overwatch 2 story missions.

Acti-Blizz’s ace-in-the-hole amid all this hardship was last year’s release of Diablo IV, which set several records for the franchise and company. Because of the dissolution of Acti-Blizz’s previous deal with NetEase, Diablo 4 never launched in China, which I’m sure will be a top priority now that a deal has supposedly been struck. The embattled publisher could use another slam dunk after the huge success of Diablo last year, and resuming one of its most fruitful relationships in one of the most populous regions of the world would definitely fit the bill.

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