Gamers revolted final month when Activision Blizzard, the corporate behind among the world’s hottest video video games, punished a participant for voicing assist for the pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong.
Now, BlizzCon, the extremely anticipated annual conference run by the corporate’s Blizzard Entertainment division, could also be disrupted by demonstrations.
Here’s the most recent on the controversy and what to anticipate.
What sparked the backlash?
In early October, Blizzard hosted a match for the Asia-Pacific area for Hearthstone, a method card recreation. During a post-match interview with the corporate’s Taiwan stream, Chung Ng Wai, knowledgeable participant in Hong Kong, spoke out in assist of the pro-democracy and anti-China protests there.
Sporting ballistic goggles and a fuel masks — equipment usually worn by the demonstrators — Mr. Chung shouted in Mandarin: “Liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our times,” echoing a well-liked protest slogan. Days later, Blizzard, which additionally makes the favored recreation Overwatch, introduced that Mr. Chung had violated competitors guidelines towards offending “a portion or group of the public.” As a consequence, the corporate mentioned he can be punished by being stripped of $10,000 in winnings and barred from the sport for a yr. It additionally suspended the hosts of that reside stream.
What was the response?
Criticism of the transfer was swift and intense, with many accusing the corporate of being motivated by enterprise pursuits in China. (Tencent, the Chinese web large, owns a stake in Activision Blizzard.)
Gamers posted angrily on social media; an anti-Blizzard boycott trended on Twitter; company employees staged a walkout and at least one creator of the immensely popular World of Warcraft said he had canceled his personal subscription to the game.
Senator Marco Rubio, a Republican, weighed in, as did Senator Ron Wyden, a Democrat who said on Twitter that Blizzard had shown it was “willing to humiliate itself to please the Chinese Communist Party.” That criticism came as several other global businesses were accused by protesters of sympathizing with the authoritarian Chinese Communist Party.
A spokeswoman for Mitsubishi, whose logo was front and center in the stream of Mr. Chung’s interview, told The Daily Beast that the company had decided to end its sponsorship of Blizzard esports events.
Days after announcing the punishment, Blizzard’s president walked it back in a lengthy letter, reducing Mr. Chung’s suspension to six months and allowing him to keep his winnings.
What’s BlizzCon and what’s going to happen now?
At BlizzCon, the annual convention, Blizzard typically debuts new games and rewards die-hard fans with insider knowledge and events. This year’s convention is being held in California at the Anaheim Convention Center near Disneyland, with the main program set to begin on Friday.
According to a news release, Gamers for Freedom partnered with the activist group Freedom Hong Kong to protest the event. (Gamers for Freedom is a project by Fight for the Future, a nonprofit that seeks to uphold freedom of expression online.)
An event outside the convention is planned for noon to 3 p.m. local time and the groups plan to distribute several thousand “Freedom Hong Kong” T-shirts to attendees and protesters throughout the day. Featured afternoon speakers include two members of the American University Hearthstone team, which had been barred from competing after speaking out in support of Mr. Chung.
Other demonstrations have been discussed online, including a Facebook event urging attendees to come dressed as Winnie-the-Pooh, a character that is censored in China after it was used to mock President Xi Jinping online.
Employees typically look forward to the annual event, but recent layoffs and the public relations fallout over the Hong Kong protest decision have affected morale for some, The Los Angeles Times reported on Thursday.
Blizzard did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Friday.