Oh man. It’s been fun to watch Blizzard take the classic Open Mouth, Insert Foot approach to damage control after they prove what absolute ninnies they are and how utterly enslaved they are to a foreign power. This is almost incredible. Sometimes you can see the point where a company does something so astronomically stupid and you think to yourself – how are they POSSIBLY going to get out of this? I mean, what do they say? That’s how I’ve felt watching all this drama unfold. Lots to talk about here, so let’s get down to business (to defeat, the Huns!)
For those of you who didn’t know, there has been a huge string of riots and civil disobedience in connection to the People’s (Commie) Republic of China looking to reign in the freedoms of the city of Hong Kong. It’s a huge political deal, threatening the future freedoms of that city and the people who live there by an authoritarian nation that will absolutely clamp down on them. Seeing people so willing to take to the streets and fight for their freedoms is heart-warming. If only America had done that after the Patriot Act. Oh well, that’s a topic for a whole other time.
During a Hearthstone tournament (a card game made by Blizzard), a Hong Kong resident by the username Blitzchung said an eight-word statement in defense of Free Hong Kong and their efforts. It wasn’t condemning China, just appealing to keep the people in his city free. Eight words. However, Blizzard, who is partly owned by a Chinese company (Tencent is one of the major shareholders), decided to clamp down on this really, really fast. Not only did they slap Blitzchung with a one year suspension, but they took his prize winnings from Hearthstone away.
From there, the news went out like wildfire. It didn’t help that the company issued a statement that Blitzchung was out of line with his statement and that it was all his fault. However, at the same time, they released a statement to China that was pretty much a ball-washing of how China is great and how angry they are at Blitzchung for saying what he did. It was found out that the two people interviewing him were in on the ploy, and both of them were fired. The stark contrast, along with the absolutely insane punishment that was so beyond the pale of what they would do to Americans caught international media attention immediately.
The Internet took off. The story went viral in a nanosecond and soon the hashtag #BoycottBlizzard took off. There was a ton of artwork, including turning Mei the Overwatch character into a symbol of Hong Kong resistance. They made some rather charming Hearthstone cards detracting Blizzard for being a complete bitch to China. And my favorite, having the Blizzard logo super-imposed over the Chinese flag. At the same time, it was found out that plenty of employees at Blizzard were rightfully pissed about this. There were walkouts, and they covered up parts of the piece in the center of their campus with statements in support of free speech and every voice mattering.
So the big question was, what was Blizzard’s response going to be? I mean, it isn’t like they could say nothing, right? Keep that thought in your mind, we’ll come back to it. But we just got an official response from the company, and it was about as complete bullshit as one would expect. Here is YongYea’s video on the subject –
Never in my LIFE have I seen a statement that was as clearly written by a lawyer as this one. There wasn’t a single authentic word in any of that. Hell, I bet a team of lawyers went over this to make sure there wasn’t a single thing that could offend their Chinese masters anywhere in that. Blizzard saying that their relationship with China had nothing to do with their wording couldn’t have possibly been more bullshit if they tried. This is the Internet, moron! People have already seen the translated message that was sent by Blizzard in China, which was a harsh condemnation of Blitzchung and kissing their country’s ass!
But it goes further. See, a collegiate team of Hearthstone players decided to do a little test. During a game, they held up a sign with #FreeHongKong and #BoycottBlizzard during a tournament. The response to this by Blizzard was nothing. It was non-existent next to what they did to Blitzchung. The people who did this posted on Reddit, quite rightfully, that while their actions were nowhere near as a reckless and potentially dangerous to their freedom as what Blitzchung’s, they did prove a point. So which is it, Blizzard? Is having a political opinion only dangerous to audiences that China can see, or will American ones be treated with the same gloves? Please, enlighten me. This company is so absolutely full of shit that it is staggering.
As one might expect, they decided to walk back just a fraction of their punishment on Blitzchung, such as giving him his winnings back, in the desperate attempted to try and save face. Not gonna work, Blizzard! Your press release from the head of your company looks like bullshit, so you doing that is just a pathetic attempt to deflect. How is your team of lawyers not able to bullshit better than this? Between your lawyers and your PR team, there should have been some grade-A bullshit in this
So, what’s the PR lesson here? Something I learned in the aforementioned (and horrifically boring) Comm. Law class is that there is an option in a crisis situation that one can take. It’s risky, but sometimes it’s the best option that you have at any given time. And that option is…do nothing! Do absolutely nothing and hope that all of this will blow over. Quietly do things to try and mitigate the worst of it, but have zero official response to anything. Basically, do a media blackout of the whole affair until the storm blows over. I gotta say, in this instance, I think Blizzard would have been a thousand times better served by just saying nothing than what they did. Because if anything is going to fan the flames of this, that response was the equivalent of pouring gasoline on a tire fire.
And all this proves a contention I have made a long time ago – all theses companies who claim that they are super LGBT-friendly are full of shit. It’s a lie. One that they perpetuate for the same reason that they are condemning Blitzchung in China – because they want money. Being pro-LGBT is in right now. Not saying that’s a bad thing, but that’s what it is. But it’s all for the same goal – securing as much money as they possibly can. It’s why you know they don’t talk about the LGBT stuff in China (no ghosts, no gays, that’s the rule). How people are able to believe that this company or Disney or any of the others aren’t just playing the game of profits with this social ideology is beyond me.
They really shot themselves in the foot here. If the company can’t learn from this and take the smarter approach to just keep their mouths shut, then Blizzcon at the end of this month should be an absolutely fantastic shit-show. Really hoping it is. Desperately hoping that the audience decides to just troll the living daylights out of Blizzard as they unveil their next big mobile game that gives the finger to PC gamers where they made their fortune on. I’m sure investors won’t notice. Just kiss China’s ass enough and they will keep giving you those truckloads of microtransaction dollars.
The lesson is – if you have no good response, then don’t say anything. Trust me, you can’t look much worse than this.
Until next time, a quote,
“With all the variations, one wonders how many deaths are hidden poisonings, with the truth known only to the dead.” – The Count, Gankutsuou: The Count of Monte Cristo