The company’s services in China were suspended at midnight local time on Tuesday, marking the end of an era for fans, after a licensing agreement with longtime local partner NetEase (NTES) expired.
“World of Warcraft,” also known as “WoW,” is a hugely popular online multiplayer game that allows users to fight monsters and journey through expeditions in the medieval world of Azeroth.
Many gamers around the world have grown up with the smash hit, including those in China. That was underscored in recent days, as Chinese fans expressed their disbelief over the loss of their longtime pastime in social media posts.
“When I woke up, I still didn’t want to accept [it],” one user said on Weibo, China’s Twitter-like platform, on Tuesday. “I cried all night in my sleep because the game went offline. I dreamt that I was crying in the middle of the class."
Another player described “World of Warcraft” as “my first love.”
"I really can’t forget it,” they wrote.
The suspension follows a bitter dispute between Blizzard, a unit of Activision Blizzard (ATVI), and NetEase.
Foreign publishers must work with local partners to offer video games in China. Last November, however, Blizzard and NetEase announced they would not renew licensing agreements that were set to expire this month.
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.