Blizzard apologized with their actions, but not their words. That’s… something.
Let me be very clear about what the words and actions mean before I dive into what I think of it all. China, via Blizzard, reduced the penalty, which is an admittance of a mistake made. China, via J Alan Brack and the clearly-translated letter, did not apologize in the statement that was put out on Friday night (the time you put out news you want to be ignored). I don’t work in PR, but I’m pretty sure this is not what a smart PR strategy looks like.
Here is the good news as I see it; Blitzchung’s actions, and the supportive reactions of Blizzard fans, caused China to back down. Regardless of how big or small the back-down was, showing any weakness is a major blow to an authoritative regime, and that’s exactly what happened here (along with the NBA backtrack). As I said before, one canceled sub of $15 alone isn’t going to change the world, and this one defeat for China isn’t suddenly going to shut down their interment camps. But it is a step, and even small steps are important.
Here is the bad news; everything Blizzard. It’s terrible that the president put his name on a Chinese’s government propaganda statement, especially one so poorly translated it looks almost intentionally embarrassing, as if China here is punishing Blizzard by not even attempting to hide the source of the wording, and trying to save some face by making it clear they still control Blizzard and tell them when to jump and how high.
It also means that actions against Blizzard must continue, because while China backed down, Blizzard has not, and remain in the same position as they held prior to this incident; beholden to China. The only way this changes is if being pro-China costs Blizzard more money than supporting them, and that only happens if non-China fans continue to hurt them in the only way corporations care; the wallet. (I won’t get into how much the Chinese market is actually worth to outside companies, but do some research; today its not nearly the goldmine you might think).
Like it or not the world now revolves around capitalist, and that means money and profit justify the decisions made by corporations. In some ways that sucks (not all ways btw), but those are the rules of the game we all play. This doesn’t however mean that corporate actions don’t have consequences. If tomorrow we find out that Blizzard is harvesting baby organs to produce games, that kind of bad PR hurts them financially, and is the reason they don’t do it, regardless of the morals. This is the reason twitter backlash actually matters; the bad PR in turn results in loss of revenue. There are countless examples of a company quickly changing course because they are negatively trending on twitter, so pretending bad PR doesn’t matter is foolish. I hate twitter and basically all social media, but again in the world we live in today, it matters and can make a difference.
I hope Blizcon is a disaster for Blizzard, and that the big news coming out of Blizcon is Hong Kong-related rather than the next Retail expansion or whatever was planned to be the big thing. Blizzard leadership at the top has to change (I suspect most employees are currently angry or at least embarrassed by the actions of the company they work for). They had a chance to do so here, and so far they have failed in spectacular fashion. I only hope that game fans, including those who like Blizzard products, continue to do the right thing and continue to push Blizzard to change. With enough pressure they will, as it will be the ‘right’ thing to do for their shareholders. Until then, the boycott continues.