The eyes of the world are already on Blizzard because of the questionable actions they took against a player who showed his support for the protests in favor of Hong Kong. Now, it’s the turn of Activision, the owners of Blizzard Entertainment, to try to convince the Chinese government to launch their most popular mobile game, Call Of Duty, in this market.
A war of interests
It’s easy to see why Activision want to sell in China since the Chinese video games market is estimated at $30 billion. However, not all companies can enter it, as these must meet several requirements from Beijing.
Generally, it is not a problem for Activision to be allowed to sell in China, but the situation may have changed when – two months ago – one of its subsidiaries (Blizzard) got into a dispute over banning Hearthstone’s professional player, Blitzchung, who showed his support for Hong Kong’s cause of freedom in an official stream.
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Among the measures taken by the company was the retention of the cash prize he had won during a Hearthstone tournament and a ban on participation in official competitions for one year.
This did not fit very well among the players, who began a boycott against Blizzard, calling out Blizzard’s censorship and saying that Blizzard was kowtowing to China.
“There’s no doubt in my mind that Blizzard took that action to protect or expand its position inside China,” American Charlie Moseley, head of the Chengdu Gaming Federation in western China, said to Marketplace. “There’s only a very small number of developers and publishers which will even have the opportunity to get inside China. And Blizzard is on that small list.”
From Blizzard, they affirmed that this is a ban on talking about politics in general, something that goes against the rules of the tournament. However, the controversy continued to cause problems for Blizzard, who finally decided to give the prize to Blitzchung and reduce the ban to 6 months.
Even the President of Blizzard, J. Allen Brack, went out to apologize, saying that they did not handle the situation well and that they hope to do better if something similar is presented again.
Taking advantage of the controversy
The problems with Blizzard have been a perfect opportunity for the competition, as some have not hesitated to take advantage of the decline in popularity they suffered.
To mention a few examples, the Gods Unchained card game began a special campaign to recruit players in Hong Kong, which was extremely effective, resulting in the migration of a considerable number of people from Hearthstone.
The Head of Epic Games, Tim Sweeney, tweeted that from his company they have always supported the freedom of expression of the players, who can freely talk about politics in all the channels they offer.
Experts say that while it is difficult to know if this controversy negatively affected the earnings of Activision’s Blizzard, it has undoubtedly created a bad reputation.