NetEase has rejected Activision Blizzard’s offer to expand its publishing partnership in China.

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Chinese game publisher NetEase said on Wednesday it had rejected Activision Blizzard’s offer to extend its long-term partnership for another six months as the US game developer looks for a new partner. NetEase said the offer was “commercially absurd” and accused the US company of “looking for a divorce but committed to it” in a rare public display of anger between the two gaming giants. Blizzard announced in November that it was ending its 14-year partnership with NetEase, sending shockwaves through the industry as the partnership was considered one of the most successful in video games.

The companies failed to agree on the basic terms of cooperation, and hits such as World of Warcraft will not be available in China, the world’s largest gaming market, from January 23.

NetEase said last week that Blizzard had offered to extend the partnership by six months, while saying it would not stop talks with other potential partners.

China’s second-biggest game company said in a statement: “Considering mutuality, unfairness and other strict conditions related to cooperation, the parties were ultimately unable to reach an agreement.” statement.

The exact links that broke the deal, which began in 2008 and was renewed in 2019, are still unknown.

A person close to Blizzard said the dispute that halted the update was due to business terms, not a data issue, as some media outlets have reported.

The person, who declined to be named because of the sensitivity of the matter, said NetEase had proposed structural changes to the partnership that would affect Blizzard’s control of intellectual property (IP).

In a statement on Tuesday night, NetEase said it has never asked Blizzard or any other partner to control its intellectual property as a publishing company in the past 14 years.

“All uses and licenses of Blizzard’s intellectual property are in accordance with the terms of the agreement and with Blizzard’s consent and approval,” it said.

Activision Blizzard did not immediately respond to Reuters’ request for comment.

Blizzard is now without a Chinese publisher as their partnership has ended. Unlike other countries, foreign game companies usually need a Chinese publisher before releasing their games in China.

NetEase became a gaming giant in part by publishing Blizzard games in China. It has since ramped up its game development capabilities, with home games now accounting for more than 60% of its revenue.

© Thomson Reuters 2023


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