World of Warcraft to go offline in China, leaving millions of gamers bereft – The Guardian

Popular role-playing game is being cut off due to a dispute between US developer and its Chinese partner
Millions of Chinese players of the roleplaying epic World of Warcraft (WoW) will bid a sad farewell to the land of Azeroth, with the game set to go offline after a dispute between the US developer Blizzard and its local partner NetEase.
Massively popular worldwide, particularly in the 2000s, WoW is an online multiplayer role-playing game set in a fantasy medieval world. It is known for being immersive and addictive, and players can rack up hundreds of hours of game time.
Blizzard’s games have been available in China since 2008 through collaboration with NetEase. Under local law, foreign developers are required to partner with Chinese firms to enter the market.
But after 14 years and millions of players in China, the two firms announced in November that talks over renewing their operating contract had failed to lead to an agreement. As a result, WoW’s Chinese servers will go offline at midnight local time on Tuesday.
Other popular titles by the Californian developer – one of the world’s biggest – will experience the same fate, including Overwatch, Diablo III and Hearthstone.
“It’s the end,” wrote one Weibo user, accompanied by crying emojis.
“It was not just a game. It was also the memories of a whole generation” of young Chinese, another wrote.
“The two companies have taken players hostage,” said Wu, a 30-year-old doctoral student and a longtime fan.
Last week, Blizzard China said it had requested an exceptional six-month contract extension, which NetEase refused.
“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,” NetEase’s president, Simon Zhu, wrote on LinkedIn late last year.
Blizzard had said it was in discussions with “several potential partners who share our values” to continue offering its titles in China.
The deactivation of its Chinese servers was not “the end” but just a “temporary unhappy suspension”, Blizzard China said. User data can be saved for use if and when the games return to China, according to Blizzard.
But Wu, who said he played WoW for up to three hours a day, saw the good side of the story. “I didn’t give my wife enough time. Now that World of Warcraft is gone, I want to make amends,” he said.


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