Blizzard has canceled a scheduled event to promote tomorrow’s launch overwatch on Nintendo Switch at the Nintendo World retail location in New York City. Nintendo has announced the cancellation in a Twitter post late last nightwho attributes the decision to Blizzard and apologizes for “any inconvenience this may cause”.
Blizzard did not respond to a request for comment from Ars Technica (Nintendo simply referred our request back to Blizzard). But the abrupt decision to cancel the long-planned event comes a week after the company briefly banned pro hearthstone player Ng “Blitzchung” Wai Chung and stripped him of his tournament winnings. That move came after Blitzchung supported the ongoing and long-running protests in Hong Kong during an official hearthstone Grandmasters online broadcast.
The backlash continues
Blizzard later reinstated Blitzchung’s win and reduced his suspension to a six-month ban, but the damage to many fans seems to have already been done. Replies to Nintendo World’s announcement tweet have already been filled with hundreds of angry comments, most of which suggest that Blizzard is fostering Chinese political interests to keep access to the country’s lucrative gaming market.
Had Blizzard continued with the overwatch event, those kinds of views would likely have been overwhelmingly and loudly represented by personal protesters in the Nintendo World store. And those protesters would interact with store staff and fans who had nothing to do with Blizzard’s decision in the Blitzchung case.
The event’s cancellation also comes as a group called Gamers for Freedom is organizing a protest against Blizzard’s annual Blizzcon gathering, which is scheduled for November 1 in Anaheim, California. It would be hard to imagine canceling such a large fan gathering on such short notice as last year’s event drew more than 40,000 people. That said, Blizzard failed to host a Blizzcon in 2012 months in advance, citing the need to focus on a few projects.
Other fans are organizing around the #BoycottBlizzard hashtag to try to put economic pressure on the company over its decision. Such boycott attempts crop up in the gaming space from time to time, often for much less politically charged reasons. But those grassroots online efforts usually don’t have a big impact on a publisher’s bottom line. At least a week later, it seems clear that the story of Blizzard’s relationship with China and the Hong Kong protesters hasn’t turned out as bad as the company had hoped.