On Monday at 11 a.m. EST it will be Jan. 24, in Beijing and Activision Blizzard’s games operated by its now-former distribution partner NetEase will go offline in China. Last week Activision Blizzard sought and failed to secure an extension of the deal it had failed to re-negotiate with the company it had been in business with for the last 14 years.
Activision Blizzard may have made a major misstep in not planning in advance, because it is NetEase—and not Activision Blizzard—that holds the official game approvals from the Chinese government, so a separation from that partnership also means that these games are no longer approved and can not be played in China. Further, even if Activision Blizzard did find a new partner in China today it could take anywhere from six months – two years to get a new approval from the government.
One thing both companies did not think through was Overwatch League: with Overwatch 2 losing government approval, franchised teams such as Chengdu Hunters, Guangzhou Charge, Hangzhou Spark, and Shanghai Dragons (owned by NetEase) will not be able to play the game in the country. Further, Hearthstone won’t be playable there either which means Chinese pro players can not participate in the 2023 esports season and fans probably won’t be able to watch it.