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.
Blizzard will once again not allow Collegiate Hearthstone teams player cams or post game interviews following American University's sign of protest in support of blitzchung last week, sources said https://t.co/SboqxqwMEK
— Rod Breslau (@Slasher) October 14, 2019
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.