China removes Blizzard’s Hearthstone from Hangzhou Asian Games after Blizzard's China exit

March 16, 2023 9:50 pm

Hearthstone, a well-known video game from Blizzard Entertainment, has been taken off the list of games that will debut as esports medal events at this year's Asian Games in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province, organizers said on Thursday.

The event’s organizer, the Olympic Council of Asia, made the announcement of Hearthstone's elimination via the Asian Games' social media pages in China and abroad. Due to China's strict Covid-19 regulations, the Games, which were initially slated for 2022, were postponed to this September.

The choice was made four months after a US video game publisher announced the termination of a 14-year license arrangement with NetEase, the second-largest video game firm in China.

The deal, which were signed by Blizzard and NetEase in August 2008, has expired in January 2023 because the two firms were unable to reach agreement on renewal terms.

As a result, Blizzard’s titles, including World of Warcraft, Diablo III, the StarCraft series, Hearthstone, Overwatch, has stopped operating in China after January, 2023.

Signs of a discrepancy between the two companies emerged in the summer when they scrapped plans for a World of Warcraft smartphone game that had been in development for three years. NetEase shed a team of more than 100 developers tasked with creating content for the title.

Since its introduction in 2014, the Warcraft universe-themed strategic card game Hearthstone rose to prominence in the world of esports. Almost 276,000 people watched Hearthstone's World Championship at its peak in 2019.

The Asian Games now only include seven esports medal events due to the withdrawal of Hearthstone. Other games include FIFA 23 from Electronic Arts, Dream Three Kingdoms 2 by Hangzhou Electronic Soul Network Technology Co, Street Fighter V from Japanese publisher Capcom, PUBG Mobile by Tencent Holdings, Arena of Valor, and PUBG Mobile by Tencent Holdings.