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    One Year After Exit, Blizzard Games Eyes Return to China: Reports

    Reports on Blizzard Entertainment’s negotiations with prospective Chinese partners surfaced after a domestic company appeared to be streaming World of Warcraft content.

    Almost one year after Blizzard Games suspended services and shut down operations in China, domestic media reports suggest that the American gaming giant is contemplating a return. 

    According to a report in the Shanghai-based outlet The Paper, Blizzard Entertainment is in discussions with multiple tech companies including NetEase, its former Chinese partner, and Tencent, one of the country’s top gaming firms, about reentering the Chinese market. 

    However, according to domestic media, the timeline for the return of Blizzard, known for hit titles like Overwatch, Hearthstone, and World of Warcraft, is still uncertain. Blizzard and NetEase did not respond to Sixth Tone’s request for comments. 

    Reports on Blizzard’s negotiations with prospective Chinese partners surfaced after a Tencent subsidiary appeared to be streaming World of Warcraft content on the video platform Bilibili on Nov. 30. According to The Paper, the stream was abruptly halted, but the World of Warcraft logo was still visible.

    Asked about the reports, Tencent Games told Sixth Tone that it was only a test livestream and declined to comment on whether it would partner with Blizzard. 

    The California-based Blizzard announced its exit from the Chinese market starting Jan. 24 earlier this year. The decision impacted millions of domestic players, forcing them to either migrate to other gaming services or abandon their favorite games altogether.

    Blizzard’s potential return has evoked mixed reactions among China’s gaming community. While long-time players expressed skepticism, some remain hopeful about reuniting with their favorite games. 

    Wei Hao, a Shanghai-based software engineer, dedicated at least eight hours each weekend to playing Overwatch for the past seven years. But since Blizzard’s departure from China in January, Wei has adapted to playing on the Asia server.  

    Hesitant about Blizzard’s potential return, Wei said, “Unless Blizzard kept all my data, there’s no way I’ll return to the domestic service. It’s just tiring to start everything from scratch twice in a year.”

    While a hashtag related to Blizzard on the microblogging platform Weibo garnered over 20 million views, only a fraction debated the pros and cons. Meanwhile, on NGA, a popular online forum for domestic gamers, conversations about Blizzard’s return were overshadowed by topics such as graphics cards, other gaming servers, and various game events.

    Blizzard’s ties with Chinese gamers grew increasingly tense last November after the company ended its 14-year licensing partnership with NetEase. Blizzard stated that their decision stemmed from their inability to “renew agreements consistent with Blizzard’s operating principles and commitments to players and employees​​.” 

    In January, Blizzard banned Chinese players from participating in the 2023 Hearthstone esports competition, citing the termination of their partnership with NetEase as the reason​​. 

    Editor: Apurva. 

    (Header image: IC)