World of Warcraft shutdown in China cuts off millions of players
Millions of Chinese gamers have lost access to World of Warcraft after a furious dispute between US title owner Activision Blizzard and NetEase, its longtime local partner in the world’s biggest gaming market. Fans of the popular game took to social media to mourn the loss, with one posting an image of a failed login message accompanied by crying emojis.
“This really hurts my heart,” one wrote. “It hurts, it hurts too much” another.
The 14-year partnership has brought significant benefits to both parties, helping NetEase become the second-largest game distributor in China after Tencent Holdings and giving Blizzard a way to tap into a huge Asian market. But the two companies broke off talks late last year over a new licensing deal to make Blizzard franchises like Diablo, Warcraft and Overwatch available in China.
The acrimony intensified this month when Netease accused his longtime partner of being “rude and inappropriate”. Blizzard had offered to extend their licensing agreement for another six months while they worked out new terms, but NetEase described the idea as “offering a divorce while continuing to engage with the same partner.”
Beyond financial terms, the main sticking points in the dispute included ownership of intellectual property and control over the data of millions of gamers across China, Bloomberg News previously reported. In its January statement, NetEase said it never sought to control intellectual property rights in its tie-up with Blizzard, whose game assets it only used by mutual consent.
Servers hosting Blizzard games were shut down in China at midnight on January 23. The company has promised to allow World of Warcraft players to save their progress with a new service. NetEase warned that it could not guarantee the security of this service, saying it could pose a security risk.
Rather than taking sides in the corporate dispute, for former players the prevailing sentiment expressed on social media was disappointment.
“This is truly a sad day for World of Warcraft players and Blizzard Entertainment fans everywhere,” one wrote online. “The sudden shutdown is a stark reminder of impermanence, displacing millions of players.”
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