Blizzard solves its ‘one company, two policies’ problem by hiding pro players and canceling an event

Nintendo says Blizzard canceled Overwatch's Switch event but doesn't say why

    
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While many gamers are now looking ahead to BlizzCon for its reveals after the Hearthstone Hong Kong esports fiasco, I’m far more curious about how Blizzard handles the inevitable backlash in person. What will matter to me is what Blizzard does with live Q&A, whether it resorts to delayed feeds, whether protesters in red shirts and “free Hong Kong” and “#boycottblizzard” and Hong Kong Mei cosplay will be booted, and whether decision-makers dare show up on stage to risk boos and maybe deliver a real apology. I wouldn’t even be all that surprised if Blizzard canceled BlizzCon, apart from the threat of a $1.5M class-action lawsuit like the one Niantic settled over its disastrous Pokemon Go Fest years ago (although I’m willing to bet Blizzard would gladly pay that same $1.5M to make us all shut up).

But maybe I’m looking too far ahead. Maybe I should be looking at how the company is working to keep a lid on that noise right now. It turns out it’s already not a good look. As esports journalist Rod Breslau reported last night, Blizzard has apparently put a hold on team player cams and post-game interviews for the ongoing Hearthstone Collegiate Championships, effectively silencing everyone. Last night’s events replaced the usual team view panel with card backs, with no interviews at the end.

Readers will recall that the collegiate team from American University in Washington, D.C., held up a “FREE HONG KONG / BOYCOTT BLIZZ” sign on their team stream at the end of their match last week, pointedly protesting Blizzard’s treatment of Hong Kong pro gamer Blitzchung and the two Taiwanese casters caught up in his protest, which has now blown up into an “international incident.” Blizzard opted not to punish the American University team for its stunt, which was exactly the point the students were making: that Blizzard’s “one company, two policies” position was unjust, since clearly the rules were different for different teams. The American University team quit in further protest. But now it appears Blizzard has decided to deal with future team protests by simply keeping players hidden and silent and removing all chance at outburst or backtalk.

Blizzard has also apparently canceled Overwatch’s Switch launch event in New York this week (h/t Danny and Tracy); it was intended to have a live meet-and-greet with voice actors. Here’s the tweet for that:

“Please be aware that the previously announced Overwatch launch event scheduled for Wednesday, 10/16 at NintendoNYC has been cancelled by Blizzard. We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause.”

If this is a sign of things to come at BlizzCon, I’m not feeling too hopeful.

Other bits to note:

  • If you liked Tyler’s piece yesterday – The Blizzard I loved is dead – then you might like this heavily upvoted letter to Blizzard, which focuses in on the guilt the player feels actually logging into Blizzard games: “[K]nowing that [Blizzard] seemingly support[s] the agenda of a country causing so much pain to others simply to continue turning a profit, actually makes me feel guilt.”
  • Blizzard support is apparently now calling the account deletion issue whereby players were being forced to upload ID a “bug.”
  • A pro Hearthstone caster from Blizzard’s Korean community, Masca, has come forward with an accusation that Blizzard underpays or in some cases refused to compensate some Hearthstone casters in the region over the course of the last three years. The caster said the Blitzchung fiasco wasn’t the impetus for his coming forward, however.
  • Remember Josh Hawley? He’s the US Senator who’s been pushing the anti-lockbox bill so dumb even people who hate lockboxes think it’s doomed. He’s also been back in the news following his Hong Kong visit, after which he told reporters that “Hong Kong is in danger of sliding towards a police state and that representative government in Hong Kong is at risk, and that the one country two systems model is at risk.” In other words, Blizzard’s timing here couldn’t be worse.
  • Last night, we actually got our first verifiable propaganda spam about the Hong Kong situation. I had no idea MOP merited targeted political propaganda spam, but hey I’ll take it as a compliment? If you spy more, smack that report button please. Apparently this is going to be a thing now.
Our complete coverage of the Blizzard mess is here:

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Steve Terry

Ok, so a professional HS player breaks the rules and uses Blizzard’s airtime to promote his political agenda. Blizzard responds by punishing him for the rule violation. If that player’s political message had been “Make America Great Again” that’s where this story would’ve ended. Maybe before judging Blizzard for applying their rules unevenly, the fans should take a look in the mirror.

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zeko_rena

This is all so stupid.
These people can just start there own twitch streams to talk about it all day long and post madly on twitter if they want to express political opinions and support a cause, go for it is what I say.
“everyone’s being silenced” lol like Blizzard E-sports events are the only place you can talk to the world on the internet.

I just want to look forward to BlizzCon and seeing what new things are on the horizon for Blizzards games, and now I have to worry about all kinds of protests and other bollocks because Blizzard seems to have become the hate pinata for anything to do with Hong Kong now.

Part of the reason I play video games is to stay away from all the political bollocks in the world these days but everyone seems to be looking for reasons to attach it.

I miss the good old days when loot boxes were the big topic.

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Latająca Mysza

Blame Blizzard. It is Blizzard that decided to make politics by banning the guy. If they just ignored his H-K speech, it would be hardly noticed – but BZ has felt the need to show how loyal they are towards commies, and it hit the fan.

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zeko_rena

He broke the rules they banned him, how this makes them loyal to communists baffles my mind.

Lets say they did ignore it, what happens if you then get some pro China people shouting something counter towards it in the next after match interview, and so on and on.

Also I would not call him a fan, he was a professional player taking part in a tournament.

I did think it was wrong of Blizzard to take his winnings as he played well and earned that prize money, thankfully they did give that back.

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Jim Bergevin Jr

It makes it political when they refuse to mete out the same punishment to an American team who broke the same rules a couple of days later, and not walk back anything else until the Internet s*** storm hit the fan and people began unsubbing and deleting their accounts en masse because of it.

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zeko_rena

I personally think it is a knee jerk reaction, they probably thought if they had banned another team things would have got even worse for them.

So they opted for just stopping interviews and the cameras as it could quickly get out of control and you would be banning everyone jumping on the train.

However I agree that the University team should have been banned and then the interview / camera change being applied for the time being.

I was really impressed that the team quit in protest after, it was nice to see people stand behind what they believe in fully.

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Latająca Mysza

The way the rules are written even opposing nazis may cause ban – so it is rather blizzcommies problem, as they wrote that prepostorous piece of crap. And even then – they are supposed to apply those rules reasonably – which they obviously failed to do, because sycophancy toward commies has been more important for them. And we have seen no pro China ppl shouting anything (pro China =/= pro commie, so why would they anyway?), that didn’t happened, and that obviously proves the point – pro China ppl were able to ignore that guy, so blizzcommies could either.

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Jim Bergevin Jr

And it’s attitudes like this that allow regimes to continue to do what they do without fear of penalty for centuries. You do realize that EVERY. SINGLE. FORM. of entertainment for all of history has been influenced and been used as commentary on political situations and general societal issues, including games. People really need to get their heads out of their butts.

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zeko_rena

Then I guess I am the reason for all the bad regimes around the world :(
Don’t worry, with my head up my butt ill suffocate to death soon and you will have one less person letting regimes rule supreme.

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Jim Bergevin Jr

Honestly, yes. The attitude anyway. History has proven time and again that turning the blind eye has allowed far too many tragedies to occur that could have been stopped long before hand had someone just stood up, raised their hand and said, “Just wait one d*** minute here.”

Thank Goodness that Chung took the courage to do just that. Our gaming community has proven that we can break barriers and move mountains when we come together for a cause.

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Jack Pipsam

You’ve made the big leagues when you get propagandists coming after you.

oldandgrumpy
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oldandgrumpy

Maybe esports is not the right business for them.

Mordyjuice
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Mordyjuice

If they have a huge panel on Diablo 4 at Blizzcon I’d move on from the ‘outrage’ to be honest, petty I know but what can I say I’m American.

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Armsbend

You are likely to get that. It will still be shittier than whatever GGG makes.

Mordyjuice
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Mordyjuice

Not for me, POE is too complicated with their trait tree, any time I’ve tried to play it I get murdered right after I make it to that first town within a few hits by trash mobs as a melee character, the latency is a problem as well; Grimdawn is a much better game than POE with easier to understand stats other than the weird constellation thing they have.

Celestia
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Celestia

I think we’ll see Blizzard continue their campaign of silence and cowardice at Blizzcon rather than a big “come to Jesus” moment. They’re going to try to tightly control every media opportunity if they allow them at all. I wouldn’t be surprised if they confiscate people’s phones at the entrance security checkpoints.

I feel bad for all their customers who are shelling out so much money to attend what should be a fun celebration. Although it is looking more and more likely Blizzard will just nix Blizzcon after their Overwatch Nintendo launch event cancellation.

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Witches

When SWTOR had mass cancellations, it also had a “bug” similar to this one.

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Greaterdivinity

Blizzard leaving Nintendo to cancel the event on their behalf while they remain silent is some super cowardly shit. Put out a joint statement and own your choices, don’t hide behind first party.

This dragged them down yet another notch in my book. I can only imagine how staff inside the studio are reacting to all this news knowing that while the vitriol and criticism may not be directed at them specifically that it’s falling on the broader company they work for. Hopefully they can keep their spirits up…somehow.

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Armsbend

Pfffttt…hopefully they quit and leave Blizzard holding the bag.

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Sorenthaz

Really going to be interesting to see how the opening ceremony at Blizzcon goes. Won’t be surprised if everyone hides on big screens instead of actually going on stage.

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Armsbend

This is what I would do. I would take a huge ironic risk. I start the ceremony with a huge red dragon on the screen. Play some parade music. Drop a giant hammer and sickle in the stage’s back. Send out someone charismatic who can actually deliver a line and say something along the lines of, “Guys…I hope you don’t think we are serious right now.”

Then go on about how ridiculous this company being under the boot heel of red china really is. say how we are for the customers but we are human – we fuck up sometimes. Speak frankly and with humor. Make jokes about chinese red masters and what-not.

Gamers like to laugh and they appreciate irony. Imo, that act would instantly diffuse any tension with the crowd at hand. And if the Chinese sent a presser out saying they would sever all ties with Blizzard you know what would happen? People who haven’t played their games in a year+, people like me, who feel compelled to boot up one of their games again. It would be a huge PR boon. I think it would permanently outweigh profits lost. And who the hell wants to live in fear of these lying dirtbags anyway? F them.

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Arktouros

What a lovely fanfic :)

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aussie_eevee

Of course they canceled the event. If your staff were under actual real death threats, wouldn’t you cancel any event that may put them in danger?

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dreamer

Ah, yes, the old “we’re getting death threats so anything we do or say from now on is no longer subject to criticism” excuse–and it is an excuse.

MurderHobo
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MurderHobo

Details or it didn’t happen. I’m sick of hearing that bullshit excuse.

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Greaterdivinity

Really? Got sauce for that? Not that I don’t believe you (I imagine the Mei actress was getting harassed given her pro-China statements on social media, sadly), but it’s the first I’m hearing of it.