It looks like things have taken a downturn since NetEase declined an offer from US games publisher Activision Blizzard, Inc., the developer of hit titles World of Warcraft (WoW), Hearthstone, and Overwatch, to extend their China licensing agreement by six months.
This came a couple of months after the US-based firm announced its 14-year partnership with the Chinese company would end on 24 January, and then blamed NetEase for the partnership’s failure.
Following the move to reject the offer for a 6-month extension, NetEase recently livestreamed the demolition of its Blizzard offices to about 30,000 people.
In the video, NetEase employees destroyed the offices, disassembled the giant replica of WoW’s weapon Gorehowl, and smashed the local version of the iconic Blizzard Orc statue.
They were then treated to a new drink in the NetEase coffee shop, Blizzard Green Tea. For those who might not know, “Green Tea” is slang in China for someone pretending to be pure, traditional, or innocent.
What caused the outrage?
In a report by Reuters, it was said that Activision China’s second-largest gaming company called Activision Blizzard’s proposal “commercially illogical”.
They also said that the US-based gaming company was “rude and inappropriate” while negotiating with others to keep games like World of Warcraft running in China.
Following NetEase’s decision to reject the 6-month extension, China’s Blizzard division announced on social media platform Weibo that players should also save the progress of the games themselves.
There has been a lot of backlash against Blizzard on Weibo, with many users arguing that the developer is only trying to extend its contract so it can hold out for a better offer from a rival developer.
Blizzard has stated that talks are ongoing with multiple Chinese distributors, though whether or not local leader Tencent is present in those talks is unknown.
NetEase also blasted Activision Blizzard on Weibo, comparing the situation to being with an unfaithful or indecisive spouse.
In a strongly worded Chinese statement on its WeChat page, NetEase used a common euphemism for sex to describe the situation:
"It's as if they were riding a donkey while looking for a horse, proposing a divorce while still engaging with the same partner.
The Chinese company also denied accusations by Activision Blizzard that NetEase wants to control Blizzard IP, saying “NetEase has used and licensed any Blizzard IP in accordance with the terms of the contract and has obtained Blizzard's consent and approval”.
“All IP cooperation with other partners is also based on this principle,” they added.
The Chinese gaming company also warned users in the same post that the World of Warcraft game progress archive feature is “unilaterally proposed and developed online, without NetEase side testing, use,” and that “there may be unknown security risks”.
Both gaming giants were in a mutually beneficial partnership for 14 years, allowing Activision Blizzard to bring its top-grossing games to the Chinese market.
This, in turn, allowed NetEase to catch up with Tencent Holdings Ltd. to become China’s second-largest gaming company.
Activision Blizzard’s services will temporarily end on 23 January until they come to an agreement with another Chinese gaming company to publish their games in the region.
Anna is a freelance writer and photographer. She is a gamer who loves RPGs and platformers, and is a League of Legends geek. She's also a food enthusiast who loves a good cup of black coffee.