Blizzard Entertainment has announced that it has cut its links with The9, the company previously responsible for operating World of Warcraft in China.
Rumours of the possible split had been bubbling under for some time, and GamesIndustry.biz understands that the move could have serious financial implications for the Chinese company, which also has deals in place with EA to operate games in the country.
But a Blizzard deal with NetEase over the MMO looked more and more likely following the two companies linking on Warcraft III, Starcraft II and Battle.net last year.
"We appreciate the enthusiasm that Chinese gamers have shown us over the years, and we've always worked hard, in collaboration with our partners, to ensure that these players receive the same high-quality service and gameplay experiences that we deliver in other regions," said Mike Morhaime, CEO and co-founder of Blizzard. "This new agreement with NetEase will support that goal for years to come, and we look forward to collaborating with them on a smooth transition for World of Warcraft moving forward."
And NetEase CEO William Ding added: "By combining Blizzard Entertainment's expertise in developing world-class games with NetEase's strength in online game operation in China, I am confident that we will be able to deliver the best gaming experiences in the world to our players."
After recent moves by the Chinese government to attempt to crack down on the influence of foreign online games, the latest expansion to World of Warcraft, Wrath of the Lich King, was said to have been targeted by the General Administration for Press and Publication department.
However, Blizzard later played down the significance of comments made, noting only that it was continuing to work with then-partner The9 on launching the game in China.