from the in-the-pocketbook dept
Just a quick update on Blizzard and the ongoing backlash against the company over its attempts to muzzle its eSports competitors from making “political” comments about “politics”, which mostly means not pissing off the laughably thin-skinned Chinese government over the fact that Hong Kong exists. It started when the company yoinked away prize money and issued a 1 year ban to a Hearthstone player, continued as it then issued more bans, then got weird when it decided to try to appease the backlashing public by halving that original ban, all of which led to basically everyone other than Beijing remarking on how totally shitty Blizzard is.
There has been a sense thus far that Blizzard believed it could lighten its punishments and run out the clock on the backlash, as the public moved on to whatever the next outrage would be. How is that going? Pretty fucking terribly, given that Blizzard just lost its first corporate sponsor due to its anti-speech actions.
When Blizzard decided to take action against a pro Hearthstone player for speaking out over the ongoing protests in Hong Kong, they ate a lot of shit from fans. They also, it turns out, lost a commercial sponsor in the form of Mitsubishi Motors.
The Taiwanese branch of the Japanese auto giant had been a sponsor of all of Blizzard’s esports events, but just two days after Blizzard’s decision to sanction Blitzchung for his actions, Mitsubishi Motors withdrew its support.
That this came from a Japanese company’s branch in Taiwan is probably not without significance. At the risk of sounding ignorant through over-simplification, the status of Taiwan and Hong Kong share similarities. Indeed, Taiwan’s President has spoken in solidarity with the protesters in Hong Kong.
More interesting is whether this is some kind of a one-off or a sign that the boycott floodgates are about to open. If this initial exodus of an advertiser triggers more advertisers to leave, suddenly the calculus for Blizzard on the cost and benefits of bowing to Chinese pressure may change. And change quickly. If that occurs, it will be fact that Blizzard will have painted itself into a corner. After all, it can’t suddenly now reverse course and encourage its competitors to speak openly and maintain credibility. It also won’t be able to dig its heels in further, or it risks losing even more advertising revenue.
I imagine there are several Blizzard executives shivering in their offices at the moment, all because they wouldn’t allow their company to back up competitors speaking their minds.