Another one bites the dust.
According to a report from Bloomberg, a World of Warcraft mobile game that’s already been in development for three years was canceled over financial disputes. The two companies collaborating on making the WoW mobile game, Activision Blizzard and NetEase, were working on an unannounced project code-named “Neptune” in secrecy before being called off. An anonymous source who was allegedly close to the deal commented that the two companies disagreed over the terms, ultimately calling the project to a halt. For now, it looks like Blizzard will prioritize their upcoming Wrath of the Lich King Classic expansion, where players can farm WoTLK gold.
What is Project Neptune?
Project Neptune was said to become a spin-off to the World of Warcraft franchise—more specifically, it would be set in a different period, so it’s impossible to use your WoW WoTLK gold in the game. It’s unknown whether Neptune would have directly tied to Warcraft I, II, or III. Still, at least Blizzard confirmed that it’s not Warcraft Arclight Rumble—the upcoming WoW-themed tower defense mobile game coming later this year.
In the aftermath of the cancelation, NetEase has disbanded over a hundred developers tasked with creating content for Project Neptune. Only a handful of those devs were offered internal transfers, while the rest had to fend for themselves when they got the boot.
True or Untrue?
After Bloomberg’s story about the dispute was published, Blizzard spokesperson Andrew Reynolds quickly jumped in, claiming that the financial disagreement between their company and NetEase was false. Reynold states that they continue to have a fruitful relationship with NetEase, and it’s untrue to suggest that they were financial disputes in the first place. Meanwhile, NetEase’s spokesperson declined to comment on the situation.
Blizzard May Have Difficulty in Publishing Mobile Games
In February 2022, Activision Blizzard revealed their plans that they were working on multiple mobile games that would be part of the World of Warcraft realm. This revelation was thought to be one of the main reasons Microsoft acquired Blizzard this year for a whopping $69 (nice) billion.
It looks like those plans of making mobile games may have disintegrated into the air, though. After all, the extent of Blizzard’s relationship with NetEase following the cancellation of Project Neptune is still uncertain. What’s more, another of Activision’s planned mobile games—a WoW-themed take on Pokemon GO—was also scrapped. Code-named Orbis, that game was in development for over four years before Blizzard decided to drop the ball entirely.
NetEase’s Working Relationship With Blizzard
NetEase is considered to be China’s No. 2 gaming juggernaut—just next to Tencent. With NetEase’s help, Blizzard can afford a valuable window into the world’s biggest market: China. The publisher is responsible for bringing World of Warcraft and Hearthstone to the country. They’re also a stakeholder in the Overwatch League—they own the current world champion, the Shanghai Dragons. And most recently, they’re behind the famous (albeit controversial) mobile game: Diablo Immortal.
Diablo Immortal has been taking the world by storm due to its microtransactions. Despite the hate and criticism from fans that Immortal is a “freemium” title, Activision Blizzard is poised to make a killing with the mobile game; the company event earned a cool $24 million during Diablo Immortal’s first two weeks.
There are 660 million mobile gamers in China’s market, and this “conflict” from NetEase’s and Blizzard’s side makes us cast doubts over future collabs. NetEase has been Blizzard’s partner since 2008 and is responsible for stewarding all of Blizzard’s games and Battle.net (Blizzard’s online service and digital platform of choice) in China.
Why Blizzard Should Make “Amends” With NetEase
NetEase may be a big company, but that doesn’t mean it can’t file for bankruptcy. If Blizzard wants to continue working with its main publisher in China, they’ll have to make amends. As said before, NetEase had to let go of more than 100 of its employees that were initially a part of Project Neptune. This had caused not only a loss in profits for the publisher but also manpower.
Chinese game developers have shown themselves adept at dishing out sensational, global hits in the market. The prime examples are PUBG Mobile, Genshin Impact, and AFK Arena. If Blizzard wants to continue getting that revenue slice from China, they’ll have to avoid any future cancelations with NetEase.
Will NetEase and Blizzard Continue Working On WoW Mobile Titles?
It remains to be seen whether NetEase and Blizzard will continue to work on World of Warcraft mobile spin-offs, but we know that Warcraft Arclighth Rumble is still on track to release across iOS and Android devices. Blizzard is set to launch their next WoW expansion, Dragonflight, later this year. The America-based company is also working on Wrath of the Lich King Classic, where players can farm WoTLK gold.