Blizzard Entertainment is reportedly making a new deal with NetEase to bring World of Warcraft back to China.
This speculation that the two companies may have resolved their issues, as Blizzard had suspended services in China earlier. Despite exploring partnerships with other Chinese publishers, Blizzard decided to renew its collaboration with NetEase, Chinese technology media outlet 36Kr reported on Monday. The original deal, established in 2009, had collapsed earlier this year.
If the new agreement is finalized, it will take at least six months for the game to return. This time frame is necessary for rebuilding the operations team and testing servers, according the 36Kr report. This means they will bring back servers for games such as Overwatch, World of Warcraft, Diablo, and Starcraft.
The news trended on Weibo with #NetEaseBlizzardReunion, reflecting the significant interest in the return of World of Warcraft to the Chinese market.
World of Warcraft has been popular in China, the world’s largest gaming market, but its player base has declined over the years. In 2009, it had 5 million active players, but by January of the current year, that number had dropped to 350,000 when Blizzard suspended services. The companies had experienced disagreements over the terms for extending their partnership before it expired.
The Chinese servers for World of Warcraft were shut down on January 23, 2023, after sixteen years of operation, but the closure was relatively quiet due to issues with Blizzard’s account preservation mechanism.