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Microsoft and NetEase to Relaunch Warcraft and Other Games in China

NetEase and Blizzard first signed a distribution deal in 2008, and the agreement proved beneficial for both sides. NetEase gained access to globally popular titles, while Blizzard secured a foothold in what would become the world’s largest video game market. At one point, World of Warcraft was the most popular online game in China.

China’s gaming industry has been in turmoil over the last several years. Beijing has sought to rein in online gaming, expressing concern that addiction to it could corrupt young Chinese people. The government has introduced laws that prohibit children from playing online games on school days and limit their gaming to an hour on weekends and holidays.

Last year, regulators proposed rules that would have imposed spending limits on video game platforms and barred minors from tipping video game livestreamers, a popular way to support online influencers. But regulators backed off the proposal after video game companies’ stocks plunged.

The government crackdowns added a layer of complexity to the negotiations between Activision and NetEase, according to a New York Times investigation into the breakup that was published last year.

Chinese gamers will still have to wait a few months before they can resume playing titles like Warcraft, Overwatch, Diablo, Hearthstone and StarCraft, NetEase and Blizzard said. The companies said they needed time to make “technical preparations” such as restoring data and building new server facilities. They said they were aiming for the first game, which they did not identify, to be available “in the summer.”


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