Guwahati: Millions of Chinese gamers have lost access to World of Warcraft after a disagreement between its US title owner Activision Blizzard and their longtime local partner NetEase.

Devotees of the game took to social media to express their dismay with one posting an image of a failed connection message accompanied by crying emojis. The 14-year partnership had been beneficial to both parties, helping NetEase to become the second-biggest game distributor in China after Tencent Holdings, and providing Blizzard with a way into the Asian market.

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However, talks for a new licensing agreement for Blizzard franchises like Diablo, Warcraft, and Overwatch broke down late last year. NetEase then accused Blizzard of being “rude and inappropriate” and rejected the idea of extending their licensing agreement for another six months. Intellectual property ownership and control of player data were key issues in the dispute. On January 23, servers hosting Blizzard’s games shut down in China.

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Though the situation has dire financial implications for both parties, for ex-players the dominant sentiment expressed on social media was sadness.

One user on wrote online: “It is truly a sad day for World of Warcraft players and Blizzard Entertainment fans everywhere. The sudden shutdown is a stark reminder of impermanence, displacing millions of players.”

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