The president of NetEase, the Chinese publisher of World of Warcraft and Overwatch, has blasted the actions of an unnamed “fool” for the breakdown of relations between his company and Activision Blizzard, led by the controversial Bobby Kotick.
WOW, Overwatch, Hearthstone, Diablo 3, Heroes of the Storm, and the StarCraft series will become unplayable in China from January 23, 2023, when NetEase’s current license expires. Diablo Immortal is unaffected.
This morning, NetEase President Simon Zhu – who says he has spent “10,000 hours” playing the above games – reacted to the announcement in an extraordinary statement released publicly via LinkedIn, where he blamed behind-the-scenes “damage” caused by a “fool” – which he left unnamed.
Here is the full quote:
“As a player who has spent 10,000 hours in the world of Azeroth, Starcraft and Overwatch, I am heartbroken as I will no longer have access to my account and my memories next year,” Zhu wrote. .
“One day, when what happened behind the scenes can be told, developers and gamers will understand on a whole new level the damage a fool can cause.
“It’s terrible for players who have lived in those worlds.”
Zhu doesn’t call the “moron” in question by name, though the implication seems pretty clear.
In an accompanying press release shared by NetEase, the publisher’s CEO, William Ding, took a more official tone.
“We have put in a lot of effort and sincerely tried to negotiate with Activision Blizzard so that we can continue our collaboration and serve the many dedicated players in China,” Ding said. “However, there were significant differences on key terms and we were unable to reach an agreement. We place great importance on our product and operating standards and honor our commitments to Chinese players.
“We are honored to have had the privilege of serving our players over the past 14 years and to have shared many precious moments with them during this time. We will follow through on our promise to serve our players well until the last minute. We will ensure that our player data and assets are well protected in all of our games.”
Early last week, Activision Blizzard signaled that it was preparing to end its relationship with NetEase for World of Warcraft and other older games via a short paragraph in its most recent financial results.
“These agreements, which contributed approximately 3% of Activision Blizzard’s consolidated net revenue in 2021, expire in January 2023,” Activision’s financial filing said. “We are in discussions regarding the renewal of these agreements, but a mutually satisfactory agreement may not be reached. We continue to see significant long-term growth opportunities for our business in the country.”
Today, NetEase claimed that these games also accounted for a “low single-digit” percentage of its overall revenue.
“The co-development and publishing of Diablo Immortal is covered under a separate long-term agreement and will continue,” NetEase concluded.
Eurogamer has contacted Activision Blizzard for comment.