A potential misunderstanding which left Activision Blizzard executives feeling that CEO Bobby Kotick had been “threatened” by his NetEase counterpart reportedly contributed to the company pulling its games in China.
That’s according to New York Times sources, who have claimed that simmering tensions between the long-term partners over a license renewal came to a head during a conference call last October.
During the conversation, which was conducted at times through translators, Activision executives reportedly felt that NetEase CEO William Ding had threatened to sway the Chinese government to either block or support Microsoft’s proposed acquisition of Activision Blizzard depending on the outcome of the negotiations.
Other sources told the publication that this had never been NetEase’s intention and was in fact simply a misunderstanding.
NetEase spokesman Alexandru Voica also denied that Ding had tried to intimidate Activision, which he said was continuing to “harass and taunt companies and regulators worldwide.”
Further talks following October’s conference call failed to heal the rift that had developed between the companies.
Activision Blizzard, which had held licensing agreements with NetEase since 2008, pulled its games from the Chinese market in January.
The move left local players unable to access titles including World of Warcraft, Hearthstone, Warcraft III: Reforged, Overwatch, the StarCraft series, Diablo 3, and Heroes of the Storm.
Days before the games went offline, NetEase tore down a World of Warcraft statue outside its headquarters in an apparent symbolic gesture aimed at Blizzard, and even streamed the demolition via one of its official game channels.
Last August, it was claimed that Blizzard and NetEase had cancelled an unannounced World of Warcraft mobile game following a financial dispute.