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Blizzard tells China’s ‘World of Warcraft’ fans to back up data as it seeks new partner

<i>Kai Pfaffenbach/Reuters</i><br/>The distributor of the hit game
Kai Pfaffenbach/Reuters
The distributor of the hit game "World of Warcraft" winds down its agreement with Blizzard Entertainment. World of Warcraft gaming booths are seen at the Gamescom 2015 fair in Cologne

By Michelle Toh, CNN

“World of Warcraft” fans in China will have to back up their playing history as the distributor of the hit game winds down its agreement with Blizzard Entertainment.

In a letter to users on Tuesday, John Hight, general manager of Blizzard’s Warcraft franchise, said the team was “working hard to develop a function that will allow you to save your game characters, props, and progress.” The company is trying to reassure players that they won’t lose how far they have gone in the game.

Blizzard, a unit of Activision Blizzard, and its longtime Chinese partner, gaming giant NetEase, said last month they would not renew licensing agreements that are set to expire in January.

Those deals had covered the publication of several popular Blizzard titles in mainland China, including “World of Warcraft,” “Hearthstone,” and “Diablo III,” since 2008. In separate statements at the time, both sides said they were unable to reach a new agreement on key terms, without giving further details.

Activision Blizzard is now looking for a new distributor in China, according to Hight. The California-based company is being acquired by Microsoft but the $69 billion deal is being challenged by the US Federal Trade Commission, which claims it could harm competition in the industry.

Hight said the company was in talks with potential partners, and would continue to have such discussions “until we find a suitable solution.” Meanwhile, Blizzard and NetEase are working to finalize a transition plan, and will announce details on how players can back up their games in January, he added.

In China’s video gaming market, foreign publishers must work with local partners to offer services in the country.

NetEase told fans last month that their “World of Warcraft” data would be “sealed” after servers for the game are shut down in January. In a statement, the Hangzhou-based company promised to handle the personal data in accordance with Chinese law.

Both companies will still work together on the joint development and publishing of “Diablo Immortal,” another widely followed multiplayer game that allows users to slay demons in an ancient world.

The title’s Chinese launch was briefly delayed earlier this year after one of NetEase’s social media accounts was blocked for allegedly making a politically sensitive comment. The game has since been released.

Collaboration on “Diablo Immortal” is under a separate agreement that will continue, NetEase said in a November statement.

— Wayne Chang contributed to this report.

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