End of the World (of Warcraft) for China’s gamers

World of Warcraft to go offline in China, leaving millions of gamers heartbroken

The land of Azeroth has been a dreamland of freedom for millions of locked-down Chinese gamers since Covid-19 struck. But just as the lockdown ends at home, fans of the roleplaying epic World of Warcraft (WoW) are being locked out of their fantasies. It’s the end of the world (of Warcraft) as they know it.

The game is set to go offline in China after a breakdown in relations between the US developer Blizzard and local partner NetEase.

Massively popular worldwide, particularly in the 2000s, WoW is an online multiplayer role-playing game set in a fantasy medieval world. Immersive and addictive, players regularly rack up thousands of hours of game time.

Blizzard’s games became available in China in 2008 through collaboration with NetEase. According to the Guardian, foreign game developers were required to partner with Chinese firms to enter the market. But after 14 years and with millions of players in China, talks over a new contract have failed to lead to an agreement and WoW’s Chinese servers will thrum their last at midnight Beijing time next Tuesday.

Other Blizzard titles are to meet the same fate, including Overwatch, Diablo III and Hearthstone.

Users have been posting tearful emojis everywhere.

“It’s the end.”

“It was not just a game. It was the memories of a whole generation.”

“The two companies have taken players, hostage.”

Last week, Blizzard said it had requested a six-month extension, which NetEase refused. NetEase president, Simon Zhu, wrote on LinkedIn late last year…

“One day, when what has happened behind the scene could be told, developers and gamers will have a whole new level of understanding of how much damage a jerk can make.”

Blizzard said it was in discussions with “partners who share our values” to continue offering its titles in China. The deactivation was not “the end” but just a “temporary unhappy suspension.” User data can be saved for use if and when the games return.

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Jon Whitman

Jon Whitman is a seasoned journalist and author who has been living and working in Asia for more than two decades. Born and raised in Glasgow, Scotland, Jon has been at the forefront of some of the most important stories coming out of China in the past decade. After a long and successful career in East sia, Jon is now semi-retired and living in the Outer Hebrides. He continues to write and is an avid traveller and photographer, documenting his experiences across the world.