Blizzard is still in hot water, both in the United States and in Hong Kong, as pressure from both sides continues to mount about perceptions of companies’ roles abroad.
Companies like video game titan Activision Blizzard, have recently come under fire for ignoring the roles of governments, especially China’s Communist Party, in violations of human rights and international procedure.
Blizzard recently banned Ng Wai Chung, a “Hearthstone” competitive player for openly advocating for Hong Kong’s freedom. This suspension and the resulting backlash have become the centerpiece of a larger controversy over companies’ roles internationally.
Along with Chung’s suspension, other players and streamers have been suspended for simmilar behavior seeming t threaten Activision Blizzard’s Chinese market partnership.
“Apologizing for not anticipating the wishes of the fans dodges the actual issue at hand,” Slate writer Dawnthea Price Lisco wrote.
In order for companies to do business in China, they have to have a Chinese partner company. They also have to sell licensing rights to their technology to the Chinese government, risking the genericization of their brands.
“Blizzard’s games have a vast audience in China, but this success – as the NBA has also discovered – will have far-reaching ramifications for the culture and politics of entertainment going forward. Fans are finding they have to balance that,” Rebecca May of The Guardian said in an Oct. article.
On Oct. 31, Fight for the Future, an advocacy group for human rights, organized a Gamers for Freedom demonstration outside BlizzCon in Anaheim.
“Gamers from around the world will be in attendance to share their voices in support of banned Hearthstone player Ng Wai 'Blitzchung' Chung, Hong Kong residents standing up for their liberty, and free expression online. The day will be filled with passionate speakers, fun events, and acts of legal, nonviolent protest,” the organization’s press release reads. “We encourage anyone in the Southern California area to join us at the Anaheim Convention Center to participate in this important day of political action.
Even United States Senator Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) weighed in on the issue in a tweet.
“Blizzard shows it is willing to humiliate itself to please the Chinese Communist Party. No American company should censor calls for freedom to make a quick buck,” Wyden said.
From the other side of the aisle, Senator Marco Rubio (R) tweeted his own thoughts on the matter.
“Recognize what’s happening here. People who don’t live in [China] must either self censor or face dismissal & suspensions,” Rubio said. “China using access to market as leverage to crush free speech globally. Implications of this will be felt long after everyone in U.S. politics today is gone.”