Back in November, Blizzard and NetEase ended their 14-year partnership to bring the Warcraft developer’s games to China. Now, it sounds like the NetEase team that handled the company’s games has been dissolved completely.
South China Morning Post reports that the NetEase affiliated Shanghai EaseNet Network Technology has laid off or reassigned “most staff” working within the subsidiary team. The less-than-100-person team had already been losing talent after NetEase and Blizzard broke off their partnership, though a “small number of technical staff” were relocated to other teams within Shanghai.
According to South China Morning Post’s sources, the team was largely operational personnel that saw to general operations rather than handling any of the actual game development. The report says 10 team members will stay behind to deal with technical and customer service issues that come after suspending the games in China, but will likely be gone within the next six months.
This entire mess affects Overwatch 2, Diablo III, World of Warcraft, StarCraft, Hearthstone, and Heroes of the Storm, and will render those games unplayable in China. Notably, Diablo Immortal, which was co-developed by Blizzard and NetEase, has been unaffected by the partnership’s end.
The NetEase and Blizzard partnership began back in 2008, but the companies didn’t renew the contract last year, ending the 14-year partnership. According to a statement from NetEase CEO William Ding, the two companies disagreed on “material differences on key terms,” and couldn’t resolve whatever issues came up. What followed was a suspension of sales for Blizzard games in China, though Overwatch 2's second season and World of Warcraft’s Dragonflight expansion were still launched at the tail end of the year.
The timing of the partnership troubles came shortly after Overwatch 2’s launch in October, which meant Chinese players only had a few short months with the shooter before it was yanked from the territory.