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Blizzard hits back at NetEase amid news of lawsuit -By Fsk

The ongoing feud between Blizzard and NetEase escalated this week after reports out of China suggested NetEase had filed a lawsuit against the World of Warcraft maker seeking £35m.

Wowhead covered a report from Sina Technology that claimed NetEase filed a lawsuit against Blizzard in Shanghai for blocking access to games and services to over one million players in the region before the servers were shut down in January. The closure demanded 300 million in refunds.

The World of Warcraft, Overwatch, Hearthstone, Diablo 3, Heroes of the Storm and StarCraft series were no longer playable in China on January 24, when NetEase’s license expired (the mobile game Diablo Immortal was unaffected).

The war of words between the two companies has been going on since 2022, when it became clear that talks to extend their 14-year partnership had broken down.

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Late last year, a senior NetEase figure publicly criticized the actions of an unnamed “jerk” for the breakdown of relations between his company and Activision Blizzard, which is run by controversial boss Bobby Kotick.

Simon Zhu, NetEase’s president of global investments and partnerships – who said he spent “10,000 hours” playing Blizzard’s games – blamed the “loss” on a “flick” behind it.

Zhu wrote at the time, “One day, when what’s happened behind the scenes can be told, developers and gamers will have a new level of understanding of how much blowback can hurt.” “Feel terrible for the players who live in those worlds.”

Now, according to Sina Technology, NetEase’s lawsuit seeks compensation for the refunds, insisting it paid players, sold merchandise and deposits on undeveloped games.

The license agreement also contained explicit wording of “unequal provisions in favor of Blizzard Entertainment”, such as the bet-on agreement and large sum deposits by NetEase to protect the activation from risk.

However, a spokesperson for Activision Blizzard told Eurogamer that it has yet to receive the lawsuit. NetEase hasn’t yet commented on the lawsuit, either (Eurogamer has asked for comment).

An Activision Blizzard spokesperson told Eurogamer, “We haven’t received a lawsuit yet, but we are confident that we are not violating any license agreements.”

“It appears that NetEase’s terms reflect standard industry practice and have been mutually beneficial over the years.

“While this persistent campaign by a former partner is disappointing and puzzling, it is important to note that we have enjoyed nearly two decades of positive experiences working in China, and we look forward to serving the players and protecting their interests.” Committed to doing.”

As the Blizzard/NetEase feud continues, Blizzard’s games are unavailable to play in China by traditional means. Western companies must partner with a Chinese publisher in order to sell and play video games in the country, meaning Blizzard will need a new partner if it wants to get World of Warcraft, for example, into the lucrative market. walk once again. (NetEase published Diablo Immortal in China in what must be one of the strangest video game corporate relationships ever.)

One thing that seems clear is Blizzard and NetEase’s disdain for each other. In January, NetEase employees broke a giant World of Warcraft statue near their studios before drinking NetEase-branded beverages. The drinks in question were allegedly a reference to a Chinese slang for a seemingly innocent but ultimately manipulative person – literally branded as “Green Tea”.

In March, The New York Times reported that Activision Blizzard’s acrimonious breakup with NetEase was influenced by Bobby Kotick feeling “threatened”.

In particular, Kotick believed that NetEase boss Ding Lei had suggested that his company could influence the Chinese government’s decision on whether to go through with Microsoft’s acquisition of Activision Blizzard in the country.

But apparently this threat was a misunderstanding on the part of Kotick. Instead, NetEase’s ding was attempting to point out potential obstacles to a deal going through in China with Activision Blizzard’s partnership with NetEase in its current form.

However, Kotick considered the mention of the subject to be a “threat”, and something that helped lead to his decision to end the partnership and seek a new Chinese partner.