Activision Blizzard Finds Itself Locked Out of China

In the latest Activision Blizzard news, most Blizzard games will no longer be available in China after January 23, 2023. It’s a surprising turn of events given Blizzard and NetEase have had licensing agreements to publish games in China since 2008. While it’s not a significant blow to Activision Blizzard’s bottom line, it does suggest potentially serious issues simmer below the surface.

The Facts
Chinese players will be unable to play most Blizzard titles, including World of Warcraft, Hearthstone, Overwatch, StarCraft, and Diablo. Mobile title Diablo Immortal, however, will be playable for now as it’s under a separate agreement.

  • Upcoming releases before the deal's end, such as season 2 of Overwatch 2, will go ahead
The Drama
The backbiting and off-the-record comments is where this story gets juicy. 
Who to Believe?
The short answer is, it’s hard to know who’s telling the truth, and both parties probably share fault. While some may be suspicious of Activision Blizzard taking the moral high ground,  operating in China does raise issues of Chinese government access to user data. It's a challenge with no easy solutions.
On the other hand, Activision is walking a fine line currently: The latest Call of Duty and Warzone 2.0 ended its AAA  hit drought, but the economy is verging on recession and regulators are heavily scrutinizing Microsoft’s increasingly difficult acquisition of Activision Blizzard.What’s Next?
The NetEase deal accounted for only single digit percentages of Activision’s overall revenue. It could survive the hit, but Activision Blizzard almost certainly has already reached out to NetEase rival Tencent. It may yet be able to strike a less lucrative deal.
Featured image: Activision Blizzard