To say this has been a rough year for Blizzard would be a comical understatement. Between layoffs, potentially cool games getting canceled, ending support for HOTS, and anything and everything Diablo-related, Blizzard would have loved to just get to Blizzcon in one piece so they can announce Diablo 4 and then try put the last 12 months behind them.
It doesn’t matter how good Diablo 4 looks now, capping off 2019 in any kind of positive way is going to be nigh impossible after the recent controversy regarding their heavy-handed and pitiful response to a Hearthstone player showing support for the protests in Hong Kong.
In case you’ve missed the drama some how: Blizzard banned Hearthstone pro and Hong Kong resident Ng Wai “blitzchung” Chung for a whole year and revoked prize money following his public support of the recent protests against the Chinese government in Hong Kong.
While you’ll surely find people who sympathize with Blizzard, by and large the community has turned on Blizzard and has erupted in support of Chung and Hong Kong.
Fans of Blizzard’s properties have taken over social media and just about anywhere you go you’ll find memes and harsh criticism. Fans of Overwatch in particular have been trying to turn Mei, a Chinese character in Overwatch, into a symbol of Hong Kong support.
An unofficial but popular Reddit for Blizzard is now wall to wall covered in memes, many of which feature Mei. Here’s a small sampling of what you’ll see at r/Blizzard:
On Twitter, #boycottblizzard has trended, and fans on social media are encouraging fellow players/fans to uninstall their favorite Blizzard games and cancel their WoW subscriptions.
A collegiate Hearthstone team based out of American University displayed a Free Hong Kong sign at the end of their championship match while live on the air. Blizzard didn’t punish the team, but they chose to forfeit from the rest of their matches as a form of protest.
A group of Blizzard employees walked out of work the other day and covered up signs at their work place that read “Every Voice Matters” and “Think Globally.”
Also while you’re at it take a look at the google search results for Blizzard Logo.
The situation is spiraling out of control for Blizzard and they don’t seem to have any plan for digging themselves out of this mess they have created for themselves.
Blizzard has been almost completely silent on the matter since the ruling came down on Blitzchung, presumably hoping that if they keep their head in the sand long enough, the situation might just go away. Instead, it is now being picked up by U.S. cable news networks which is never a good sign.
The only peep that we’ve heard from Blizzard is through their response on the Chinese social media platform Weibo. Below you can read a translation of Blizzard’s message provided by IGN. It doesn’t get much more pathetic than this:
We express our strong indignation [or resentment] and condemnation of the events that occurred in the Hearthstone Asia Pacific competition last weekend and absolutely oppose the dissemination of personal political ideas during any events [or games]. The players involved will be banned, and the commentators involved will be immediately terminated from any official business. Also, we will protect [or safeguard] our national dignity [or honor].Blizzard via IGN
Some people thought maybe Blizzard would come out of hiding quick enough at least say something to their fans outside of China right before the weekend – a classic move for people/companies trying to avoid as much attention as possible – but nope, nothing.
This all has transpired at the worst possible time for Blizzard as it has picked up steam just weeks before Blizzcon, during a news cycle which included the NBA and Apple getting blasted for similar actions, and on the heels of a recent South Park episode that called out companies for sucking up to the Chinese government.
There’s really nothing positive or uplifting I can say to, or about Blizzard right now. They are a total dumpster fire, and there’s no clear solution for them other than apologizing, reversing the decision, and then waiting for the masses to slowly move on. Even then, there’s already been long term irreparable damage done to their reputation.
Still, that’s the only way that Blizzard will be able to have some semblance of a normal Blizzcon at this point, but even under those conditions there’s definitely going to be protests. I don’t envy anyone that has to go on stage to present, and if Blizzard had any plans to show off Diablo Immortal, they are obviously cancelled at this point. Right?
But that’s all irrelevant because all of Blizzard’s actions thus far has sent the message that they will do or say anything that they need to in order to stay on the Chinese government’s good side so they can continue to do business there. If that’s not the case, and Blizzard does care about keeping the respect of their fans in Hong Kong and around the world, then it’s about time they showed it.