In what might be the biggest PR blunder since EA’s fateful Reddit comment back when Battlefront 2 first launched (the most downvoted Reddit comment in history, a Guinness World Record in fact), Blizzard has pulled a “hold my beer” moment.
To bring any newcomers up to speed, Hong Kong has been protesting Chinese influence in their government for a while now, and over the weekend, during the Hearthstone Grandmasters, a player by the name of BlitzchungHS showed support for the protests live on stream.
In the blink of an eye, Blizzard kicked him from the Grandmasters, stripped him of his winnings, and banned him for a year from further competitive play. And the two casters interviewing him at the time were also fired.
And now, Blizzard is under fire, and boy howdy is that an understatement.
But why is it such a big deal?
Technically, Blitzchung broke the rules by turning the interview into a political statement. But the punishment must fit the crime, and he was punished as though he’d been caught cheating. Many rightly suspect that has to do with Blizzard’s presence in the Chinese market. It’s no secret that there’s a lot of Chinese money in a lot of industries around the world, gaming included. But that fact rarely comes to the spotlight in a way like this. So the backlash isn’t exactly unexpected, or unwarranted. So in a way, Blizzard has sided with China over people.
And the people aren’t happy. All around the internet, players are canceling subs, uninstalling games, writing angry emails, etc. Big streamers like Kibler and Kripparrian have also both shown their support. And that’s just in the gaming space. Plenty of politicians and lawmakers and people of, you know, ridiculous influence have also spoken out against the decision.
And about all there is to do now is wait to see what exactly Blizzard does next, if anything. And with Blizzcon a mere three weeks away, ire toward a mobile Diablo game might just be in the least of their worries. I wouldn’t be surprised if the entire event has a bit of a totalitarian air to it come November.
That, or a bunch of cosplayers dressed as Winnie the Pooh.