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Blizzard announced Wednesday that it would suspend most of its game services in China due to the non-renewal of its current licensing agreements with Chinese publisher NetEase.

These agreements, which have been in place for more than 14 years, cover the publication of Blizzard's World of Warcraft, Overwatch, Diablo 3, Hearthstone, StarCraft series, Warcraft III: Reforged, and Heroes of the Storm.

According to Blizzard's press release, the two companies could not reach a deal to renew the agreements "that is consistent with Blizzard’s operating principles and commitments to players and employees", and these will expire on January 23, 2023, when all games covered by them will have to be suspended in mainland China. 

Blizzard Entertainment President Mike Ybarra said: "We’re immensely grateful for the passion our Chinese community has shown throughout the nearly 20 years we’ve been bringing our games to China through NetEase and other partners". He added that his company is "looking for alternatives" to bring the games back to Chinese players.

In a separate statement, NetEase added that there were "material differences on key terms" and NetEase CEO William Ding said the Chinese company will "make sure our players' data and assets are well protected in all of our games."

A Bloomberg report, citing anonymous sources familiar with the talks, noted that both the financial terms of the deal, but also the ownership of intellectual property and control of player data were "key sticking points" in the negotiations.

New sales of the games will be suspended in the coming days and Chinese players will be notified about details on how this will work. Nevertheless, upcoming releases for World of Warcraft: Dragonflight, Hearthstone: March of the Lich King, and season 2 of Overwatch 2 will proceed before the end of this year.

NetEase and Blizzard clarified that co-development and publishing of the recent Diablo Immortal mobile game is covered by a separate long-term agreement that will continue.