Diablo: Immortal’s release in China delayed, ban looming

At this point, it is no longer a surprise that Blizzard is involved in some kind of drama; this time it is not in the US, but in China. The official partner of Blizzard in China, NetEase, decided to delay the release of Diablo: Immortal and considering how things are looking, it might even get banned.


Why is Diablo: Immortal delayed in China?

Many assume that the delay is because of the gigantic Diablo: Immortal backlash that has been happening in the west. It is apparently due to technical issues impacting the game’s performance. While that was how the delay started, there is another possible reason why Diablo: Immortal is being delayed, which is due to an alleged post on the game’s Weibo social media account, where China’s President Xi Jinping was called out.

The Weibo incident occurred on May 22nd, as the post from that date, when translated, says, “Why hasn’t the bear stepped down.”. This might confuse some of you, so for clarification, the word “bear” is targeted at Xi Jinping, as he was often compared to Winnie-the-Pooh.

Naturally, this post led to a massive negative reaction in China as it “blew up on the Chinese internet” quite fast, and it caused the game to get review bombed with negative comments that the game is full of unfair gambling (which is technically accurate). NetEase stock saw an immediate drop following the delay, stabilized in the next few days but sees a downward trend.

weibo diablo

Screencapture of the post causing all the trouble. Author’s location seems to be the US.

Could this lead to a ban?

Video games are incredibly regulated in China, and it takes a lot of effort to publish them. If NetEase gets suspended from releasing games in the next three years because of the Weibo post, this means that Diablo: Immortal, Diablo 4, Overwatch 2, and World of Warcraft Dragonflight may have to find a new operator in China to publish their games.

Furthremore, lootboxes and gambling mechanics are heavily regulated in China. Diablo Immortal in China may drop all of these mechanics, and actually make for a more fun player experience. Yet, considering the state of the game, if Diablo: Immortal is the only game not getting published in China, it might not be that bad. But if NetEase gets the brunt of the regulatory punishment, it may impact the release of all other Blizzard titles.

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