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NetEase boss blames "damage" done by "a jerk" for Activision shutdown of World of Warcraft, Overwatch in China

"Feel terrible for players who lived in those worlds."

A senior figure at NetEase, the Chinese publisher of World of Warcraft and Overwatch, has blasted the actions of an unnamed "jerk" for the breakdown in relationship between his company and Activision Blizzard, which is run by the controversial Bobby Kotick.

WOW, Overwatch, Hearthstone, Diablo 3, Heroes of the Storm and the StarCraft series will become unplayable in China from 23rd January 2023, when NetEase's current license expires. Diablo Immortal is unaffected.

This morning, NetEase president of global investment and partnership Simon Zhu - who says he's spent "10,000 hours" playing the above games - reacted to the announcement in an extraordinary statement posted publicly via LinkedIn, where he blamed behind the scenes "damage" done by a "jerk" - who he left unnamed.

World of Warcraft: Dragonflight launches 28th November.

Here's the full quote:

"As a gamer who spent 10,000 hours in the world of Azeroth, Starcraft and Overwatch, I feel so heartbroken as I will not longer have the access to my account and memories next year," Zhu wrote.

"One day, when what has happened behind the scene could be told, developers and gamers will have a whole new level understanding of how much damage a jerk can make.

"Feel terrible for players who lived in those worlds."

Zhu does not call out the "jerk" in question by name, though the implication seems fairly clear.

In an accompanying press release shared by NetEase, the publisher's CEO William Ding took a more official tone.

"We have put in a great deal of effort and tried with our utmost sincerity to negotiate with Activision Blizzard so that we could continue our collaboration and serve the many dedicated players in China," Ding stated. "However, there were material differences on key terms and we could not reach an agreement. We hold high regard in our product and operational standards and abide by our commitments to Chinese players.

"We are honored to have had the privilege of serving our gamers over the past 14 years and have shared many precious moments with them during that time. We will continue our promise to serve our players well until the last minute. We will make sure our players' data and assets are well protected in all of our games."

Early last week, Activision Blizzard signalled it was preparing to wind down its relationship with NetEase for World of Warcraft and other older games via a short paragraph in its most recent financial results.

"These agreements, which contributed approximately three percent of Activision Blizzard's consolidated net revenues in 2021, expire in January 2023," Activision's financial document stated. "We are in discussions regarding the renewal of these agreements, but a mutually-satisfactory deal may not be reached. We continue to see substantial long-term growth opportunities for our business in the country."

Today, NetEase claimed these games also represented a "low single digits" percentage of its overall income.

"The co-development and publishing of Diablo Immortal is covered by a separate long-term agreement and will continue," NetEase concluded.

Eurogamer has contacted Activision Blizzard for comment.

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