One of the seven Overwatch League slots that was announced Wednesday belongs to NetEase, a company that is the official Overwatch distributor in China and the server operator for all Blizzard games in the country.
NetEase, which was awarded the Overwatch League slot in Shanghai, China, distributes all Blizzard games in China, owns the servers on which the games run on in the country, and even organizes events for Blizzard. An article from China Topix’s Phenny Lynn Palec last July even stated the success of Overwatch had a direct correlation to NetEase’s stock prices.
The relationship represents a direct conflict of interest because a team will be owned by a company that had a previous relationship with Blizzard, publisher of Overwatch, and subsequently made money for Blizzard. The decision to award an Overwatch League slot to NetEase opens Blizzard to serious questions about transparency and fairness, as even though a conflict of interest doesn’t mean any wrongdoing has happened, it raises questions about any situation involving the conflicted parties. Given Blizzard’s already blurry track record of transparency regarding Overwatch League, and the decision is concerning.
Although there is no details as to how Blizzard looks to deal with future disputes or conflicts between teams, but in terms of where the League currently stands, it is extremely concerning. In order to make sure that no such conflict of interest arises, the responsibility will be on Blizzard in order to organize a league that gives a clear and transparent look into conflict resolution.
Blizzard did not initially respond to request for comment.