World of Warcraft Team in Talks With New Potential Distribution Partners in China

Blizzard China released a letter from John High, General Manager of World of Warcraft’s production team, to all of the game’s players in China at midday on December 13, saying that it is currently negotiating with some new potential distribution partners. The move follows the Amercian game developer and publisher’s announcement in November that it will be suspending most game services in mainland China due to the expiration of current licensing agreements with China’s NetEase.

John High said that the World of Warcraft team is working hard to develop a function that enables Chinese players to save their game characters, props and game progress in Azeroth onto their personal devices before the game stops operation in the country on January 23.

John High also said that he expected the transition with new partners to go smoothly. At the same time, through this function, players will be able to control their own game history. The statement revealed that Blizzard is working with NetEase to finalize the plan, and will announce more detailed information on how players save the game progress in January.

After the letter was released, Perfect World, another Chinese game maker, saw a stock price increase of over 4%, which triggered rumors about whether it would cooperate with Blizzard China. According to a report by Southern Finance, a spokesperson for Perfect World said that it had nothing to reveal to the public.

After Blizzard announced the termination of its contract with NetEase on November 17, many internet and game companies were reported to have potential intentions to negotiate with Blizzard, including Tencent, Perfect World, miHoYo, Bilibili, ByteDance and so on. Approval of new games by Chinese authorities is the key point of such negotiations.

The cooperation between Blizzard and NetEase lasted for 14 years, jointly promoting many classic games to enter the Chinese market. Huxiu reported that the reason for the breakdown of cooperation is that Blizzard put forward four conditions, including a higher share ratio for Blizzard, Blizzard’s binding clauses for the approval of games, hundreds of millions of dollars of pre-paid cooperation fund, and lower revenue share of NetEase.

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An insider close to NetEase told media outlet Caijing Eleven that these four conditions are true, adding that Blizzard’s management team wants to make quick money and NetEase cannot accept such conditions. A Tencent Games insider said that Blizzard and NetEase have always had differences regarding game concepts. Blizzard cares more about game experience, while NetEase pays more attention to stimulating players’ psychology for winning. A senior game practitioner believed that the termination of cooperation shows that China’s game industry needs its own IP and technology.