BlizzCon 2019 opens with an underwhelming apology

Posted on November 2, 2019

Public apologies are truly tragic things to behold in this day and age, aren’t they? People fake tears, claim they won’t do this again, blame their upbringing, anything to turn tides of controversy. Now we get to add Blizzard to the list. Lots of people have been looking at BlizzCon 2019 under a microscope, and Blizzard has done a pretty poor job of appeasing their fans who are worried about the company’s stance on the recent Hong Kong controversy.

Let’s take a step back. The issues plaguing Blizzard revolve around the now months-long protests in Hong Kong. Despite guarantees by the Chinese government, bills were being passed that would loosen Hong Kong’s independence from China. Specifically, bills would allow people from Hong Kong to be extradited to China. Essentially, the totalitarianism state of Chinese policy would leak into Hong Kong. As such, there have been mass protests. China doesn’t approve of protests, regarding them as terrorists to the Chinese states. China, however, is a global superpower, and thus has been using this authority as a market force to influence media. It’s worth noting that whilst the conversation is focused on Blizzard, it is merely one of many multi-national companies that has bent to China. Censorship, firings and more controversies have found their way into many companies from the NBA to Apple.

Blizzard is playing nice with China. During a Hearthstone tournament, competitor Blitzchung called for the liberation of Hong Kong. Blizzard responded by saying that BlizzChung had broken rules and was stripped of his prize money. Blizzard would respond after (*much after*), that it was in no way related to China, a claim that went mostly ignored by a sceptical public. The large part of Blizzard’s fandom has since taken Blizzard to task over their perceived political allegiance.

With all this anger and frustration, many have been curious about what fresh wounds may appear during Blizzard’s annual convention: BlizzCon. Blizzard did the smart thing by opening proceedings with an apology from company President J. Allen Brack about the situation. But like so many public apologies before them, Blizzard has done a poor job at actually apologising. See whilst fans in the room may have been enthusiastic about Blizzard owning up to their faults, the simple fact is Blizzard addresses the issues in the most detached way possible.

Blizzard seems unwilling to acknowledge the issue properly, instead of facing serious political controversies, the apology merely dances around with vague platitudes. Blitzchung’s protest is now a “tough Hearthstone Esports moment about a month ago”. The swift punishment and lengthy delay on any explanation is “moving too quickly in decision making… too slowly to talk with all of you”. Blizzard isn’t bending a knee to a foreign market, they are “not living up to their standards” or “not doing a good job of uniting the world through their games”. Blizzard is apologising about a Hong Kong protest controversy, yet they do not mention Hong Kong. No mention of China. No direct reference to Blitzchung. As such, the message is clear. Blizzard wants back in your good graces but they won’t dissuade China from doing business with them.

Public apologies are somewhat of a lost art. Companies cannot admit fully to what they have done lest they lose favour, be it a fandom, be it a country. Blizzard talks of lofty ideals of having a voice and union of all people through video games. But for all that they claim, much more can be said about that which has been omitted.