Blizzard taps NetEase to release freemium card game Hearthstone in China

Activision Blizzard

Above: Blizzard's Hearthstone card game for tablets and PC.

Image Credit: Blizzard
Gaming is in its golden age, and big and small players alike are maneuvering like kings and queens in A Game of Thrones. Register now for our GamesBeat 2015 event, Oct. 12-Oct.13, where we'll explore strategies in the new world of gaming.

China is an extremely important country in Blizzard’s plans for gaming domination, and the developer just revealed that it is once again partnering with Chinese Internet company NetEase to release its latest game in that territory.

NetEase signed a three-year deal to operate Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft in China. Blizzard already has existing deals with the company to operate World of Warcraft, StarCraft II, and in the country.

Now, Netease will also oversee Blizzard’s new free-to-play strategy card game. Hearthstone is similar to Magic: The Gathering. It is a collectible card game in which players make decks to fight against one another.

“Hearthstone represents everything we love about games — it’s easy to pick up and play, it has a lot of personality and depth, and it’s just pure fun,” Blizzard chief executive officer Mike Morhaime said in a statement. “We’re putting a lot of focus into delivering a Blizzard-quality free-to-play experience with Hearthstone, and we know gamers in China will have a blast playing it.”

China is a gigantic market for games (and many other things, of course), but its government has strict regulations that block dedicated gaming consoles from entering the country. That means that PC developers like Blizzard can capitalize on a major market that is hungry for games without having to compete with Nintendo’s, Sony’s, or Microsoft’s consoles.

“We are very excited to be bringing a new game to China from Blizzard, and we believe Hearthstone will be a hit with gamers here,” NetEase chief executive officer William Ding said. “We’re working closely with Blizzard to prepare everything needed for launching Hearthstone in China, and we look forward to providing players with another great gaming experience.”

In North America, Hearthstone will enter into a beta test this summer. The game will start with around 300 cards, and players can add to their decks by purchasing $1 booster packs.