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NetEase first announced Diablo Immortal four years ago. Photo: Handout

NetEase delays highly anticipated release of Diablo Immortal in big setback for China’s No 2 gaming company amid ongoing Weibo ban

  • The company said it would indefinitely postpone the release of the China version of the game, citing a need to adjust and optimise it for Chinese players
  • A Weibo account for the game has been banned from posting for “violation of relevant laws and regulations”
China’s second-largest video gaming company NetEase said it will indefinitely postpone the launch of Diablo Immortal, a highly anticipated instalment of the 25-year-old Diablo franchise, for gamers in mainland China.
NetEase shares tumbled 10 per cent during the Monday morning session in Hong Kong following the announcement of the postponement on Sunday.
NetEase said the game, which received a licence in China as early as February and was slated to launch on June 23, is in need of adjustment and optimisation to give better experiences to Chinese players. The decision came after the official account for the game was banned from posting on Weibo due to “violation of relevant laws and regulations”.

An Asia-Pacific version of the game will launch on July 8 instead of the originally scheduled June 22. An international version debuted two weeks ago and has already generated around US$24 million for the studio, according to Appmagic, a system tracking gaming-app performance.

NetEase remains “forbidden from posting” according to a tag on the Weibo account for Diablo Immortal. Photo: Shutterstock

The company did not disclose a revised launch date for the Chinese version in a separate post on Sunday.

Beijing-based NetEase, the second-largest video gaming company in mainland China after Tencent, co-developed the game with US-based Blizzard Entertainment.

NetEase declined to make further comments about the decision.

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The official Weibo account of the title remains “forbidden from posting”, according to a tag on the platform, as of the time of publishing. It is unclear when, or if, new posts will be resumed.

Weibo has not specified a precise reason for the ban. A prohibition on new posts is a relatively light punishment on Weibo compared to more serious sanctions, such as account cancellation. All existing posts, including the most recent one on June 6, can still be viewed.

The video gaming community has been eagerly anticipating the game, following a four-year wait since Blizzard Entertainment announced that it would produce a sequel for the internationally renowned Diablo franchise. Its original announcement caused a wave of controversy at the time because a PC version was not planned, though the company later said it would make versions for PC, iOS and Android devices.

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“We consider the debut of Diablo Immortal a huge opportunity to show the world, particularly the Western gaming community, about NetEase’s strong [research and development] capability,” NetEase’s chief financial officer Charles Zhaoxuan Yang said in the company’s most recent earnings call in May.

NetEase is expected to receive a share of the title’s global revenue. By last month, it had gained over 15 million subscriptions in China as the total number of worldwide preregistrations reached 35 million.