On April 24th, 2023, reports circulated that Blizzard Entertainment was being sued by former Chinese publishing partner NetEase after servers shutdown in January when the two failed to reach a continuation agreement. However, a day later, it turns out that NetEase was in fact not suing the company — instead, as reported by PC Gamer, the suit is being brought by a single individual who is known to be a serial litigant with no history with NetEase. It appears the court documents listened NetEase erroneously; the company does not have anything to do with the lawsuit. Originally, MMO-focused gaming website Wowhead noticed the suit.
Since this story was originally published, those court documents have been re-published to reflect that the suits are coming from a Yang Jun; all mentions of NetEase have been removed.
“We haven’t received the lawsuit yet, but we are confident we aren’t in breach of any licensing agreements. The terms NetEase appears to be complaining about reflect standard industry practice and have been mutually-beneficial for years," an Activision rep wrote in a statement to Engadget prior to the discovery that NetEase was not involved in the lawsuit. "While this persistent campaign by one former partner is disappointing and puzzling, it’s important to note that we have enjoyed nearly two decades of positive experiences operating in China, and remain committed to serving players and protecting their interests.”
Blizzard and NetEase were successful partners for the past 14 years before negotiations broke down to renew the long-term licensing agreement. This led to a complete cessation of all Blizzard games and services in the region, including popular properties like World of Warcraft, Overwatch 2, Starcraft and Diablo III, among others. Millions of Chinese players lost access to their accounts and related data. Some started fresh with new accounts in other regions, but most (112 million people) opted for a refund.
The agreement did not end amicably, with reports of NetEase staffers tearing down the Blizzard offices and livestreaming the destruction of a World of Warcraft statue. NetEase's president of global investment and partnership, Simon Zhu, also seemed to call out a high-ranking Blizzard staffer as a “jerk” in a LinkedIn post. Despite the seeming animosity, though, the lawsuit does not come from NetEase.
Update, 4/24/23, 3:30PM ET: This story and its headline have been updated to indicate that this lawsuit hasn't been confirmed yet, as Activision itself nor Engadget has seen a copy of the lawsuit yet.
Update, 4/25/23, 11:30AM ET: A full statement provided by Activision has been added to the story.
Update, 4/25/23, 2:35PM ET: This story and its headline has been updated to reflect the recent development that NetEase was erroneously named in this lawsuit.