By now, it seems like Blizzard has angered pretty much everyone except the Chinese government. Following the company's decision to ban a Hearthstone player after he voiced support for Hong Kong protesters during a post-game interview, the hashtag #BlizzardBoycott began trending on Twitter amid reports of Blizzard employees staging walkouts in protest.
Things have only gotten worse for the company since then. Although Blizzard released a statement explaining their decision and admitting they may have acted too harshly, they have still continued to ban players for speaking out against the Chinese government. Even worse, Blizzard appears to now be censoring Hearthstone tournament comments on Twitch, with any viewer who types "Free Hong Kong" in the Twitch chat receiving a 24-hour ban from talking.
Blizzard, and parent company Activision Blizzard, have now even attracted the ire of multiple American politicians. In a surprising show of bipartisan support, United States Senators Ron Wyden and Marco Rubio, along with Representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Mike Gallagher, and Tom Malinowski, penned a letter to Bobby Kotick, CEO of Activision Blizzard, urging him "in the strongest terms" to reconsider the company's recent decisions. The letter, which can be read in full below, calls Blizzard's actions "particularly concerning" with regards to the way China has been pressuring numerous American businesses lately.
JUST IN: @AOC, Senator @marcorubio, Senator @RonWyden, congressman Gallagher and Malinowski have signed a joint letter directed to Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick denouncing and condemning Blizzard's punishment of Blitzchung pic.twitter.com/kIaWriif7m— Rod Breslau (@Slasher) October 18, 2019
The letter mentions both Apple and the NBA as victims of China's recent push to stifle free speech and protests of its treatment of Hong Kong, as well as strongly suggesting Blizzard's actions moving forward will have a ripple effect on the entire gaming community. "Your disappointing decision could have a chilling effect on gamers who seek to use their platform to promote human rights and basic freedoms," it reads. "You have the opportunity to reverse course. We urge you to take it." As of right now, the only change Blizzard has made is to cancel an Overwatch launch event for the Nintendo Switch.
With the company's largest celebration of the year, BlizzCon, less than two weeks away, Activision Blizzard needs to do something to get back in the public's good graces soon. Although the company has stated multiple times their business interests in China have nothing to do with their decision to ban players for speaking out against the country's government, it doesn't look like either the general gaming audience or United States politicians believe them, and their continued use of censorship in Twitch chats only reinforces this belief. If Blizzard doesn't take action soon, BlizzCon 2019 may top last year's disastrous Diablo Immortal reveal as the most upsetting Blizzard conference to date.