In the past few weeks, Blizzard has made some decisions that have caused not just consumer, but international backlash. It started a few weeks ago when a professional Hearthstone player, Ng "Blitzchung" Wai Chung, made a pro-Hong Kong protest comment after a competition. The company stripped him of his tournament win and banned him from professional play for a year. Consumers responded swiftly, with people across the globe canceling their Blizzard game subscriptions. As a result, Blizzard seemed to disable the ability to cancel a subscription, claiming technical difficulties. After backlash, the company reinstated his win, as well as reducing his ban to six months instead of twelve.
Blizzard hoped that this would be the end of the controversy, but it seems to be just the beginning. This week, Blizzard decided to cancel a big event at Nintendo World in New York City, which was to be part of their much-anticipated release of Overwatch for the Switch. While Blizzard had not given a public statement about why the event had been canceled, many believed it was in response to a request from the Chinese government. There was an almost guaranteed chance that there would be protesters at the event, and their message would have been broadcast internationally with the Blizzard and Overwatch logos behind them. China has been flexing its muscles lately in regards to the Hong Kong protests, threatening to end business relationships with companies that even indirectly present an image of supporting the protests. Many companies have kowtowed to these requests for fear of losing access to the lucrative market.
Consumers are not the only ones concerned about Blizzard's relationship with China. A group of US Congresspeople who share almost no political positions, came together this week to express their concerns. A letter was sent by Republicans Marco Rubio and Mike Gallagher, Democrats Ron Wyden, Tom Malinowski, and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, to the company. They cite consumer response, employee response, and concerns over the reasoning behind these moves.
Blizzard and other companies have been put into a sticky situation when it comes to Hong Kong. The Chinese market can be a big one for these companies, but only if they play the government's games. Hong Kong has been China's first real flex outside of internet censorship. In addition to Blizzard, Apple was seemingly forced to remove an app from their store that allowed protesters to communicate. Apple also received harsh criticism and government questioning.
This could be the event that finally re-ignites the rift between the West and the Communists of China.