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Top games including ‘World of Warcraft’ to return to China

Popular video games including "World of Warcraft" will return to China this summer, US developer Blizzard and local partner NetEase said Wednesday, over a year after a contract dispute pulled them from the market leaving millions of fans bereft.


“Beloved video game titles from Blizzard Entertainment that captivated millions of players in China will return to the market sequentially, beginning this summer, under a renewed publishing deal,” the companies said in a statement.

They added that titles including “World of Warcraft” (WoW) spin-off card game “Hearthstone” and other games in the WoW and “Overwatch” franchises would also return to the country.

WoW’s Chinese servers went offline in January 2023, prompting a wave of mourning and anger from fans who had poured years of their lives into building up their in-game points.

Chinese social media users on Wednesday cheered the return of Blizzard’s titles to the market, with “Blizzard announces return” and “NetEase and Blizzard remarry” the top trending searches on the Weibo platform.

“Today, our long-lost old friend returns, our most beloved game returns,” gaming blogger “Scarlet Bunny” wrote in a Weibo post.

“Come back to life, my beloved!” another fan wrote.

Massively popular worldwide, particularly in the 2000s, WoW is an online multiplayer role-playing game set in a fantasy Medieval world where good battles evil.

It is known for its immersive and addictive gameplay, and players can rack up hundreds of hours of game time.

Blizzard’s games launched in China in 2008, through collaboration with internet giant NetEase — under local law, foreign developers are required to partner with Chinese firms to enter the market.

But after 14 years and acquiring millions of players in China, the two firms announced in November 2022 that talks over renewing their operating contract had failed to lead to an agreement.

“After continuing discussions over the past year, both Blizzard Entertainment and NetEase are thrilled to align on a path forward to once again support players in mainland China and are proud to reaffirm their commitment to delivering exceptional gaming experiences,” the companies said in their statement.

Some longtime WoW players remained bitter about the title’s extended absence from China.

“The Chinese market is not Blizzard’s living room where you come and leave as you want. Players are not playthings in Blizzard’s hands that you take or abandon at will,” one gamer wrote on Weibo, calling for a boycott.

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