Blizzard China released a letter from Nathan Lyons-Smith, General Manager of Hearthstone’s production team, to all of the game’s players in China on December 23, saying that it is currently negotiating with some potential new distribution partners. The move follows the impending end of the Amercian game developer and publisher’s licensing deal with NetEase next year.
Nathan Lyons-Smith said in the video, “I have been the executive producer of Hearthstone team since February this year. Before that, I was a production director for three years. I am not only a developer, but also a game player. Since the launch of Hearthstone in 2014, it has been my favorite game. Before the service is stopped on January 24 next year, all players who log in to the game can get ten card packs for free.”
Hearthstone is a strategic card game with eleven characters in Warcraft as eleven different professions. Players need to form a suitable card group, command heroes, drive followers, cast spells, and compete with other players.
In Newzoo’s list of the most popular PC games in May this year, Hearthstone ranked 4th as the only card game entering the top 20. Hearthstone players in China occupied a large proportion of the game’s all players. According to a well-known livestreamer on Bilibili, Hearthstone players in China contributed 40-50% of the revenue. Facing the upcoming ending of the game in China, players began to look for substitutes, such as “Onmyoji: The Card Game”, “Shadowverse”, “Yu-Gi-Oh! Duel Links”.
After Blizzard and NetEase issued statements on November 17 announcing the end of their partnership, many games including Hearthstone will be terminated at midnight on January 24, 2023. Blizzard said that after the server is shut down, all account data will be temporarily sealed and properly handled according to the requirements of laws and regulations to protect the legitimate rights and interests of users. Walter Kong, general manager of Overwatch team, said earlier that he was in talks with some new potential Chinese distribution partners.
In addition to the 14-year cooperation between Blizzard and NetEase, the next topic of interest is who will have the intention to negotiate with Blizzard next. On December 22, a screenshot circulated on the Internet showed that ByteDance’s Douyin would become a new partner of Blizzard, and Douyin had started recruiting former employees of NetEase and promised a salary increase. Douyin later denied the rumor.