Blizzard Entertainment canceled plans for an Overwatch Nintendo Switch launch event scheduled for October 16, 2019 at the New York City Nintendo store on just a few days' notice, the latest questionable move from a company that has been struggling to be portrayed in a positive light in recent weeks. Although the problems afflicting Blizzard's public image have diversified as of late, the recent issues all stem from a controversial decision regarding a professional Hearthstone player's attempt to vocalize his support for the on-going protests in Hong Kong against a proposed policy from the Chinese government.
blitzchung, the Hearthstone player in question, expressed a desire for a free Hong Kong after winning a Grandmasters match, voicing the rallying cry during a post-match interview during a live broadcast. Blizzard reacted swiftly, suspending the player for a year, removing him from the Grandmaster league (Hearthstone's premier professional tournament series) and revoking all of the prize money he had won for the event. This was met with harsh criticism from virtually all camps in the gaming community, with at-odds sub-groups unifying in a desire to preserve the ability for player's to speak freely and for their hard-earned money and accomplishments being better protected. Blizzard eventually capitulated somewhat on the decision, giving blitzchung his money back and a reduced suspension, but the end result has been heavy negativity toward Blizzard for placing profit above all else.
Blizzard has now canceled a promising Overwatch Nintendo Switch launch event just two days before the event was set to occur, with the announcement coming on October 14 and the event itself tagged for October 16 prior to getting the axe. Nintendo tweeted from the @NintendoNYC Twitter account to confirm the event had been canceled, though no reason was given by either Nintendo or Blizzard. Overwatch launches on the Switch today, but excitement for the game has been dulled somewhat thanks to the lingering resentment over Blizzard's treatment of the blitzchung controversy.
Please be aware that the previously announced Overwatch launch event scheduled for Wednesday, 10/16 at NintendoNYC has been cancelled by Blizzard. We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause.— Nintendo NY (@NintendoNYC) October 15, 2019
While nothing has been confirmed as of yet, the obvious guess for why the event was postponed is over concerns that it would have been the site of protesting Blizzard's decision. There have been rumors circulating online about groups looking to make a statement through protest at Blizzard events, and the Overwatch launch in New York City would've been a prime location to do so, perhaps prompting Blizzard to preemptively shut it down to avoid further controversy. That is, of course, just speculation - but it's hard not to infer the decision is about the Hearthstone scandal, especially with no other reason forthcoming.
While Blizzard can shut down smaller events like the one in the Nintendo store, there's only so much the company can do before it must confront the growing resentment of fans and critics for what they perceive to be a decision to appease China and its deep pockets in the gaming industry. BlizzCon is coming up quickly, and as Blizzard's biggest event of the year - and the site of a controversy last year in Diablo Immortal that already tarnished the company's reputation - it needs to figure something out long-term to bounce back from its current perception, and in the interim, protests and fan demonstrations seem almost inevitable.