Blizzard games to pull the plug in China

Hearthstone Forged in the Barrens
(Image credit: Blizzard)

Major video game developer Blizzard Entertainment is set to cease its operations in China as it has failed to extend its agreement with the Chinese provider NetEase.  

This means that gamers based in the country will need to connect to the best China VPN services to keep playing the likes of World of Warcraft, Hearthstone or Starcraft.

The news comes as US video game giant Activision Blizzard's subsidiary company reported that NetEase refused an extension of the 14-year licensing deal, about to expire, that permits Blizzard games to be distributed across mainland China. 

Diablo Immortal will be the only game released under a separate contract. Other titles won't be available for users connecting within the country's borders from January 23 onwards.    

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Blizzard and NetEase tensions grow

"Unfortunately, NetEase is unwilling to extend the service for six months based on the terms of the existing partnership while we look for a new partner," announced the video game provider via its Weibo page on January 17. 

Both NetEase and Blizzard Entertainment first reported the end of their commercial agreement in November last year. Blizzard reported to have been trying to negotiate an extension of further six months, the time to look for another partner and keep the distribution going. NetEase refused. 

"We will not give up and will still do our best for everyone. We want you to understand that it's not over yet. We will still try to find a national partner who shares our beliefs," Blizzard assures to users.

In a prompt response, NetEase lamented how the six-months extension deal was proposed only a week before, branding such a move "unequal" and "unfair."

"In our view, Blizzard's proposal - including today's surprise announcement - is brash, unseemly and commercially illogical," wrote NetEase, describing such a behavior as "riding a mule while looking for a horse, divorcing but still trying to live together."

The China-based games distributor also denied speculations around its desire to gain control of Blizzard's IP addresses, promising it would do its best to serve users until the end.  

Some of the games set to suffer include World of Warcraft, World of Warcraft 3: Reforged, Diablo 3, Overwatch 1 and 2, Heroes of the Storm, the Starcraft series, and Hearthstone. 

Blizzard Entertainment said it's still looking for a partner, but experts don’t expect the titles to be out anytime this year due to the stringent regulatory process.   

In the meantime, Blizzard developers recommend Chinese gamers to backup all their data so that their game progress will be stored until the next release.   

How a China VPN can help

As mentioned above, gamers playing across mainland China will need to turn to a VPN service to keep playing all their favorite Blizzard games.

A VPN is software able to spoof users' IP addresses. That's because the internet traffic will look like coming from one of its many international servers instead. Gamers can then trick their ISP to think they are in a completely different country in seconds.

A gaming VPN is even advantageous in terms of performances. The ability to switch among different servers can help them avoid ISP throttling and increase ping rates, for example.

Besides this, though, using such security software is recommended for everyday usage, too. For people living in countries like China it is pretty much a necessity. 

A spoofed browsing location is essential for accessing the long list of censored sites, for example. By encrypting all the data leaving a device, a VPN is also needed to escape online surveillance.

Chiara Castro
Senior Staff Writer

Chiara is a multimedia journalist committed to covering stories to help promote the rights and denounce the abuses of the digital side of life—wherever cybersecurity, markets and politics tangle up. She mainly writes news, interviews and analysis on data privacy, online censorship, digital rights, cybercrime, and security software, with a special focus on VPNs, for TechRadar Pro, TechRadar and Tom’s Guide. Got a story, tip-off or something tech-interesting to say? Reach out to