NetEase is not suing Blizzard—The Chinese court system confused one angry man with a corporate behemoth

Blizzard's orc statue
(Image credit: Blizzard)

Time to put on the hairshirt. Yesterday it was reported by Chinese media that NetEase was suing its former partner Blizzard, whose games it published for 14 years, for around $43.5 million. That report was incorrect, and based on a Chinese court document that for reasons yet to be explained named NetEase in error.

Here's what is true: Blizzard is being sued in China. But despite the court docket saying it was NetEase suing Blizzard, it is in fact one angry man called Yang Jun, who somehow included NetEase as an appellant. Various copies of the court filing (turned up by WoWhead) on Chinese public information websites name NetEase and Yang Jun as the appellants against Blizzard Entertainment and defunct former licensing partner The9.

It's the presence of The9 here, which NetEase subsumed over a decade ago, that should perhaps have raised the red flag. Essentially these court filings, mistakenly or otherwise, imply that Yang Jun is acting alongside or for NetEase. But he's not: The guy's a serial litigant who has no association with NetEase (and has in fact sued them too).

The filings have now been updated to reflect that the suits are coming from Yang Jun alone, with NetEase's name disappearing entirely. What's more curious is the amounts involved and the wider context of a much-publicised fallout between two former partners: It looks an awful lot like this suit was an attempt to fit into that narrative and mislead the public into thinking it was a part of it. 

Yang Jun's previous attempt at this, a case against NetEase and The9 in 2019 seeking a refund for World of Warcraft gametime, was dismissed.

So we have an erroneous court document saying NetEase was suing Blizzard, which today has been changed, and a whole bunch of Chinese and western media reporting on that basis. Was this just bureaucratic error? If so it's an awfully big one, and has led to a lot of journalistic error to boot.

Blizzard told PCG in a statement "We haven’t received the lawsuit yet, but we are confident we aren’t in breach of any licensing agreements." Well, it must be double confident now. Blizzard goes on to say "we have enjoyed nearly two decades of positive experiences operating in China, and remain committed to serving players and protecting their interests." Though, for one Yang Jun, I'm sure it can make an exception.

Rich Stanton

Rich is a games journalist with 15 years' experience, beginning his career on Edge magazine before working for a wide range of outlets, including Ars Technica, Eurogamer, GamesRadar+, Gamespot, the Guardian, IGN, the New Statesman, Polygon, and Vice. He was the editor of Kotaku UK, the UK arm of Kotaku, for three years before joining PC Gamer. He is the author of a Brief History of Video Games, a full history of the medium, which the Midwest Book Review described as "[a] must-read for serious minded game historians and curious video game connoisseurs alike."