Terrified of bad press after its China capitulation, Blizzard cancels NYC Overwatch event

Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2019/10/16/poke-at-the-choke.html

I think this really should be reworded. Blizz did not take action against the player for being “pro-democracy”. They took action because Blitzchung’s actions were against the rules of the tourney, which he even admits to. Now their initial actions were grossly exaggerated as evidenced by them literally reducing the suspension in half and rewarding him 100% of his earnings in a complete damage control 180…whether that is a “retrospective” change or one made based on external pressures we will never fully know. I suspect the truth is somewhere in the middle.

Additionally, while most western democracy loving folks can say “Boo on Blizzard!!!” - I am among those that did in posting a criticism of Blizz’s actions on my personal IG (If my Warcraft Blog and podcast were still active, I’d have had plenty of harsher words for Blizz as I have in the past) - it is incumbent upon them as a corporate entity to take measures to ensure business dealings are smooth with various markets. The China market is relatively speaking quite large for them when viewing their products holistically (Warcraft film, games, products, professional gaming, etc). I fully expect terrible cow-towing to happen, and Blizz is not the only company to be guilty of it: see the NBA, Google, Apple, etc etc.

At some point a large corporation will tell the Chinese communist gov’t to go to hell (plenty of smaller companies have done so in their own manner: see Epic Games for example), but for a corporate entity it is easier to stand for principled politics when your profit margins are not effected. Blizz is in a fairly no win situation here. Personally I am on the side of stand by your principals; but that is easy for me to say when I have no shareholders dependent on my personal voice, and no one’s job is on the line.

I think Taliesin speaks to this really well:

Another way of saying this is that capitalism and democracy are fundamentally at-odds. Corporations never have and never will voluntarily respect the universal human right of freedom of expression. We have to force them to do it.


Blizzard/Activision can’t seem to stop digging holes and falling in them. Their “apology” involving Blitzchung and the newscasters they fired was not well received for a variety of reasons, and protests of their stance are planned at Blizzcon.
They wanted pro gamers to be seen by audiences as being real people, and then tell them they can’t express opinions or beliefs. It’s a raw deal, and deserves every bit of mockery and protest they are seeing.


Who cares? That TOS? It’s … pretty garbage, even considering how garbage a lot of TOS’s are.

I particularly loved this bit:

“in Blizzard’s sole discretion

So many ways to say, “run our toys all you like, but we own you.”


A competition is not terms of service as no services are being rendered. It’s a code of conduct.

A professional esports player or broadcaster is essentially no different than an employee of a company in regards to being held to the “code of conduct” of the employer. You are being paid/compensated for your time and efforts.

What Blitz did was nearly identical to what Kap was doing on the NFL sidelines. Difference being the NFL’s code of conduct policy was vague and referenced only “being respectful” during that time frame…which he absolutely was. Blitz knew full well his actions would be considered against the CoC and did it anyway. Good on him for that.

Incorrect. Employees have rights.


Yes they do…as do contestants in eSports. But there are limits in our rights in regards to speech and behavior while on the company’s dime.

Freedom of speech does not mean freedom from consequences. If I were doing an interview as a representative of my employer and decided to make a socio-political stand…it wouldn’t go over well. As was the case for Blitz. I applaud him, I applaud his stance; but I also understand Blizz’s stance even if I disagree with the severity of their actions.

True, and they could (in most places at least) fire you.

What they couldn’t do was have you do the work, and then when you make that socio-political stand decide they are not going to pay for that work (which in my opinion they did to Blitzchung originally, before they reversed their stance and decided to let him keep the prize he had already earned).

I too understand where Blizz is coming from, the money coming from the China market is worth more to them then letting anyone make words of support about Hong Kong. That is their stance, and they are far from the only ones. It is understandable, after all it is a lot of money. Or maybe it isn’t understandable because principals should never be for sale. Personally however I’m absolutely sure if you offered me millions of dollars to look the other way I would at the absolute least be tempted. Then again I know I’m at the heart of it all not that great a person. I already struggle against selfishness, and I’m not being tempted by millions.


I can once recall being — let’s say let go — for a quasi-comparable … infraction (let’s say). But I don’t recall losing promised monies or being stranded. I don’t recall being so much at the caprice of a corporation that my contract had it spelled out that I had no rights.

In case you want to argue this point, read this again:

“in Blizzard’s sole discretion

sole discretion

Where are the other party’s rights? I mean, you see it, too, right? That’s a hell of a limitation to impose.

We can ask what was so onerous of standing with Hong Kong that made it necessary for Blizzard to drop the hammer on this clause, but that’s only a part of all this.

We can suggest that Blizzard was within their rights, but that’s not really germane.


They rescinded their decision and gave him every penny he “earned”. What is your point with that?

And while I agree the other party has “rights”…WELCOME TO EMPLOYMENT IN THE USA…it’s called “at-will”. Most employers can terminate you for a huge array of “reasons”.

Look…point blank. I applaud and agree with Blitz’s position. I also (and can also) understand Blizz’s position to punish him for breaking the CoC. They over-reacted and should have shown more support. He also needs to accept the consequences he knowingly went into head on (which he has admitted he knew this was going to happen).

The hammer was too heavy. The action was unprofessional. This is one of those “we can have both” situations.

That it was there to begin with?

Yeah Blizzard backpedaled, and hard. Why could that have happened? Hm.

Really? You didn’t read my response? Up above? Where I said it happened to me? But it was still different? And which strongly indicated I comprehended the issue reasonably well?


I guess this is hard. I should just get back to trying to shoehorn the word “jugal” into an awkward space, because that’s likely to make more sense at the moment, and doing that actually matters. Fucking jugal.


Blizz knows BlizzCon is going to be a complete shitshow, but since it’s too close to cancel or for this to die out, at this point they’re hoping they can contain it there (good luck).

Also have to wonder if maybe Nintendo wasn’t all that excited about getting Blizzard’s shit all over them, either.

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Interesting how companies are getting big because they have a great product.
Chinese love great products and buy these.
But now, these same successful companies need to bow to China.
In order to do what? If your product is good, Chinese will keep buying it. Only the pro propaganda talk will hit your business, but this is not all Chinese.
So many American branded cars in China and still everyone is suppose to hate Trump there.
Open your eyes; stand from your belief and stop accepting any demand for censorship.
China is a dictatorship government with a lot of customers.
Who do you become when you bow to this?

“… the company has canceled a much-ballyhooed Overwatch event scheduled for NYC today…”

Well. That should reduce the backlash and level of hatred.

The thing here is, this all would be a lot less big a deal if Blizz hadn’t rolled over so fast and so easily. Shamus Young did a video about his opinion on this but the long and short of it is: Blizz should have done what any other company does when faced with this sort of demand from a government: stall. Stall and hold out and make the process as onerous as possible until either China forgets about it or forces it, at which point Blizz can point and say, “we did what we could but ultimately for the good of- ‘blah blah blah’.” There was no overt action or demand made by Chinese authorities about Blitzchung’s actions and Blizz just jumping the gun to remove any potential liability so quickly makes them look like lapdogs.

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A typical American corporation. Profits over all, human rights concerns not important.


I have no skin in this game, I admit it. I haven’t used Blizzard products for decades now. But with this action, and the NBA stuff, it’s clear to me that corporations haven’t changed one bit. For all the “don’t do evil” mottoes they proudly cite, they continue to provide economic benefit and cover for brutal regimes and dictators. If they’re not selling products in those countries and bending over at the whim of their rulers to squash dissent, they are selling them the weapons to suppress their people.

Corporations are evil. They put money before all ethics. They exist for one reason: to extract maximum profits while shielding their owners from anything unethical the company may do. Remember that and you’ll never misunderstand their intent.


I think you are missing a key detail here. The “Blizz” here that jumped the gun was the Blizz China office. They didn’t check with the main office prior to pushing the suspension/ban. Then once it trickles out to Blizz in Irvine, that’s when the reversal came. At that stage it was too late ofc and the damage was done.

The issue is that Blizzard runs its divisions with some autonomy. Blizz China doesn’t have to literally run everything across brack’s desk or kotick’s either. It doesn’t function the way it did when it was Morhaime running an independent game dev company.

It’s a bad look for them and bad decision on their part no matter how you slice it. And they’d have faced backlash from some angle no matter what they would have done.

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