NetEase opens refund channels for Blizzard game assets
NetEase has opened game-asset refund channels for Chinese gamers, covering Activision Blizzard-developed titles, after the two sides ended a 14-year cooperation in the domestic market, the Hong Kong-listed Chinese technology company said on Wednesday.
The games, including the World of Warcraft, Diablo 3, Overwatch and StarCraft, are already offline on the Chinese mainland. The refund channels will be valid until June, according to NetEase.
The virtual assets, including gaming time, character level, weapons and jewels, cost up to 298 yuan each (US$43.8). The most valuable assets are from the World of Warcraft, a popular online multiple role-playing game worldwide.
In November, the United States-based Blizzard announced it would be suspending most of its game services on the Chinese mainland in January, citing the expiration of its licensing agreements with NetEase. NetEase blamed "irreconcilable differences" for the breakdown in the partnership, which began in 2008.
The opening of the refund channels means an official end of the partnership, though early media and industry expectation is that the cooperation may be extended for another six months.
The share price of NetEase closed 2.79 percent higher at 143.6 Hong Kong dollars (US$18.4) on Wednesday, compared with 1.05 percent gain in the Hang Seng Index in Hong Kong.
The business impact of the end in partnership will be limited as most related games have already passed "the peak" of their life cycles, industry insiders said. Also, most pertinent Blizzard offerings are computer games while an increasing number of Chinese fans have turned to mobile games, with popular titles developed by Tencent, NetEase and Shanghai-based miHoYo.
Many players, however, expressed regret at the end of the cooperation. The World of Warcraft "represents our youth," players and netizens said on social media.
The refund application opened on Wednesday morning. By afternoon, NetEase had received over 678,000 applications.
The refund process may require identification to protect players' assets. The deadline for the refund is the end of June, according to NetEase.