Blizzard, and more importantly, J Allen Brack, have publicly apologized for incorrectly handling the Hong Kong / Blitzchung situation. If we are being 100% honest, this is about as much as Blizzard could have done at the very opening of Blizzcon. To lead off your biggest event with an apology is a big deal.
Also important was the acknowledgement that actions mean more than words, and Brack strongly insisted that players were free to protest and demonstrate at Blizzcon. This is exactly what they punished Blitzchung for, so their ACTION here is a complete reversal of that original decision. Short of outright telling China to go F itself, I don’t know what more they could have done to show they are correcting the mistake. That someone is being allowed to walk in as Winnie the Pooh is, in fact, that direct F You to China.
For my part I’ll resub to WoW Classic when that comes around (assuming Blizzard doesn’t screw it up by then, but that’s an issue for another day/post). This also means I’ll go back to blogging about the game. Hopefully the gaggle of children I lead in-game will now have their faith restored that daddy won’t abandon them and resume more actively playing as well.
Finally, for everyone who was doubtful that players protesting Blizzard over this incident wouldn’t matter, suck it. Some part of Brack saying sorry was due to a financial hit related to this incident, whether direct via cancelled subs or indirect in bad PR. Here the protesters and players won, and China lost. That’s a good thing, that goes far beyond just silly videogames.
Brack said more than I thought he would and said he was sorry. And he didn’t say we should get past it, but that we should watch their actions going forward. And, as you noted, Winnie the Pooh was on camera. I am sure nothing less than “Free Hong Kong” on the big screen would mollify some people, but it gives me something to think on.
I’ve removed all of my Blizzard software from my system and made sure all of my subs are cancelled. I won’t be returning to anything Blizzard makes for a very long time. Blizzard lost their way a long time ago like many other publishers (Bethesda being the latest) and the only thing that will hurt these companies is closing our wallets and making sure they never see another dollar from consumers.
I get that. I mean as fun as Classic is, its only fun because its Vanilla, and is a bit LESS fun because of how Blizzard handled servers and go-live, plus now the phased approach.
Let’s see if Diablo 4 is more Diablo 2 and Diablo 3.
“If we are being 100% honest, this is about as much as Blizzard could have done at the very opening of Blizzcon.”
I disagree. They could have reinstated Blitzchung and apologized to him. That’s a clear, simple, and unambiguous action which Blizzard could easily have taken. The fact that they chose not to do makes their Blizzcon “apology” lacking in my eyes.
I am surprised they have not done this. So really all we have are some empty words at this time.
I think if they make it too much about Blitzchung, it dilutes the message that Blizzard messed up and are now taking that back. And again I think allowing Pooh into the building is a bigger message than allowing a single player to play competitively again a few months sooner.
I find that to be an entirely weird response. This issue is about Blitzchung. Blizzard wronged him, and refusing to make him whole undermines the message they want to send.
Look at it this way:
Criminal: *steals money from person X*
Audience: That was bad
Criminal: You’re right, that was bad. I won’t steal money from you.
Audience: Will you give person X the money back?
Criminal: No, I don’t think I will be doing that.
How can you honestly trust the criminal in this example not to steal?
Words do not really matter. Only actions matter. If Blizzard does not take the obvious, right, and honorable actions, how can you trust their words?
I’m not sure that the issue is about Blizchung, to the majority of protesters and viewers. Nearly all of the talk that I encounter both personally and on social media, and video game news has focused on Blizzard bowing to China, and mentions of Blitzchung tend to get a small mention as if he was the bystander to Blizzard’s mistake. I’m not saying that this is necessarily an accurate representation of events, but I think it’s how most people conceptualize them. I think the the bigger issue for most people was about Blizzard shamelessly kow-towing to China at the expense of Hong Kong.
Actions matter, which is why allowing Pooh and all the protest shirts into the building is a far larger action than cutting a suspension for a single player a few months short. Which one makes China look a lot worse? Which one would China, given the option, shut down?
It seems to me to be a big assumption to read Brack’s heavily coded apology as any kind of personal statement or even as an unambiguous position-taking by Blizzard. Are we going to believe that what he said wasn’t agreed in advance with the same outside interests we previously believed were directing the original actions?
As a largely uninterested party, with no pre-existing affection for Blizzard and an interest in only one game they have ever made, and that interest itself a lot weaker than my interest in similar games from other companies, what I read from Blizzcon so far is a fairly well-managed damage limitation excercise.
What we’re seeing goes some way to explain the otherwise mysterious radio silence until now. Having made what might have been a catastrophic error, Blizzard were extremely fortunate in that they had Blizzcon coming up. While outsiders were seeing it as a potential flashpoint for disaster, Blizzard knew they had a lockerful of bright, shiny new toys to hand out – but they couldn’t let anyone know that until the Con itself. Hence the lack of pushback in the weeks leading up to Blizzcon – they knew they would be able to dazzle most of their fans and customers with the gleam of the new toys. The apology, particularly the careful use of the trigger word “sorry” (in a heavily nuanced context), seals the deal without actually reversing or countermanding any of the previous actions.
Had all this blown up a year ago I think we’d have seen it handled very differently. Then there would have been no WoW Expansion, no Diablo IV, no Overwatch 2 to haul out and climb on. There’d have been Diablo Immortal and “don’t you guys have phones?” Imagine how that would have played. Granted they wouldn’t have predicted the negative reaction to launching a mobile a game at a PC convention (they didn’t at the time, after all) but they’d have known the locker was almost empty and they’d have had to make their concuiliatory moves before Blizzcon.
They’ve been lucky in a way and they’ve finessed their luck effectively so far. I imagine they’ve paid for some good advice and gotten their money’s worth.
“They’ve been lucky in a way and they’ve finessed their luck effectively so far. I imagine they’ve paid for some good advice and gotten their money’s worth.”
The question is will people move on and forget what happened? Surely people aren’t that gullible. The corporate empire that runs Blizzard is only focused on one thing – money. Maybe I have a low tolerance for crap in my old age but as far as I am concerned Activision/Blizzard can go f..k themselves.
China’s policy on free speech sucks; but it’s their country. If we were really serious about boycotting China we’d be boycotting physical goods made in China, not Blizzard games. On the other hand, the NFL blackballing Kaepernick happened in the good old USA, and we’re most of us still watching NFL games. I don’t disagree with anyone here in principle, but in practice it seems like Blizzard is getting shit on more because their new games suck than because they’re any more money-hungry than any of the other corporations in the world.
Accidentally posted anon
Well-said Trego. I agree with you.
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You let Blizzard off the hook really easily. Here’s a super easy way Brack could have made that apology better without changing any of the words – wear a “we support Hong Kong” shirt while on stage. SImple. Easy. Perfect.
That then gets Blizzard to BE political, which is their choice, but isn’t a requirement from my end. The issue is that Blizzard WAS political when it censored Blitz. They ‘fixed’ that by NOT being political and allowing the protests/Pooh.
Would you want Brack to were a MAGA hat? Or a Duck Drump hat?