Blizzard China: After dark, millions of players lose access to ‘World of Warcraft’ and other games.

Hong Kong

As Blizzard Entertainment’s Chinese servers went offline after 20 years, millions of Chinese players lost access to the iconic “World of Warcraft” franchise and other popular video games.

After a licensing deal with longtime local partner NTES (NetEase) expired, the company’s service in China stopped at midnight local time on Tuesday, ending an era of fans.

“World of Warcraft”, also known as “WoW”, is a very popular online multiplayer game that allows users to travel through exploration and fighting monsters in the medieval world of Azeroth.

Many gamers from China and around the world grew up with the smash hit. This was highlighted recently as Chinese fans expressed their disbelief at the loss of their long-time hobby in social media posts.

“When I woke up, I still didn’t want to accept it. [it],” one user said on Weibo, China’s Twitter-like platform, on Tuesday. “I cried all night because the game turned off. I had a dream in which I cried during class.”

Another player described ‘World of Warcraft’ as ‘my first love’.

“It’s truly unforgettable,” they wrote.

The suspension follows a heated argument between Blizzard and NetEase, a subsidiary of Activision Blizzard (ATVI).

Foreign publishers must work with local partners to offer video games in China. However, in November of last year, Blizzard and NetEase announced that they would not renew the license agreement, which was set to expire this month.

These deals have included the publication of several popular Blizzard titles in mainland China since 2008, including “World of Warcraft”, “Hearthstone” and “Diablo III”. In separate statements at the time, both sides said they could not be reached. New agreement on key terms without providing additional details.

Now the discussion seems to have gotten more heated.

In a statement last Tuesday, Blizzard said it had reached out to NetEase and “asked for assistance in extending its current contract by six months.”

The US company said it appealed to NetEase to allow its fans to continue playing without interruption “based on their personal feelings as gamers and the frustration Chinese players have expressed to us”.

“Unfortunately, after discussing it again last week, NetEase has not accepted our offer for an extension,” Blizzard said.

NetEase struck back with a statement of its own last week.

In an unusually succinct commentary, the Chinese tech and gaming giant accused Blizzard of turning a blind eye to its “sudden statements” and called the American company’s proposal “absurd, inappropriate and inconsistent with business logic.”

NetEase also pointed out that Blizzard has already “started working on finding new partners” in China, putting the Hangzhou-based company in an “unfair” position.

Visitors to Blizzard Entertainment's 'World of Warcraft' stand during the Expo in Shanghai in October 2018.

The public controversy took an unexpected turn in the company’s 14-year partnership.

Under a separate agreement, the two companies are collaborating on the joint development and publishing of “Diablo Immortal”, another popular multiplayer game that allows users to slay demons in an ancient world. NetEase said in a statement in November that the collaboration will continue.

snowstorm said in December that “World of Warcraft” fans would be able to back up their play history and save all their progress so they could end their contracts and find new partners.

This week’s closure was also emotional for NetEase’s senior executives.

NetEase Games’ president of global investments and partnerships, Simon Zhu, detailed in a LinkedIn post on Monday how it has grown with Blizzard games in China, including previous “Warcraft” and “Diablo” titles.

“only [a] It’s a few hours before the Blizzard Games servers shut down in China, which is a big deal for Chinese players,” he wrote.

“Today is a very sad moment to witness the server shutdown and we don’t know what will happen in the future. The biggest victims will be the Chinese players who live and breathe the world.”

Activision Blizzard, which previously had another Chinese partner before working with NetEase, said it was still looking for a new distribution partner.

“Our commitment to players in mainland China is An Activision Blizzard spokesperson told CNN, “We will continue to work with Tencent on the distribution of Call of Duty: Mobile and continue active dialogue with potential partners to resume gameplay for Blizzard’s iconic franchise.”

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