Another Awkward Blizzcon for Blizzard
Blizzcon has now been and gone, with an odd confluence of Pooh Bears in attendance. A very strange coincidence. There also seemed to be a large number of attendees who made their way there by accident, as they were all apparently looking for the America – Hong Kong Chamber of Commerce. Boy must their faces have been red when they mistakenly time and again asked the Blizzard devs questions about Hong Kong!
This author is of course being facetious. Blizzard has been having a horrible month ever since they suspended Blitzchung from the Hearthstone tournament circuit for voicing an opinion on the question of Hong Kong independence. Blizzard did their level best to distract people from this issue by announcing Diablo IV and Overwatch 2 way before such an unveiling was prudent, and Overwatch 2 does not even seem like a new game so much as a content patch.
All is not well in the house of Hearthstone though. This week it has come to light that Mitsubishi has pulled their sponsorship from the Hearthstone Asia Pacific Tournament. Initially there was some confusion about whether or not they had done this, but then Mitsubishi’s Erica Rasch issued the statement that the company had pulled their sponsorship two days after Blitzchung’s suspension. The predominant reason that companies like Mitsubishi sponsor such events is because they want people’s positive regard for these events to confer a positive association upon their product. If Blizzard completely trashes their brand and turns Hearthstone tournaments into a source of controversy then there is no longer any reason for companies to sponsor them.
Blizzard Redefines the Meaning of an Insincere Apology
As mentioned above, Blizzard really did try to pull out all the stops in order to distract people from the Blitzchung incident. In their attempts to do this, Blizzard president J Allen Brack even went so far as to take to the stage for an apology regarding his punishment of Blitzchung, in an effort to blunt criticism – which would have been great if the sentiment behind it was not wholly fraudulent and insulting:
We moved too quickly in our decision-making and then, to make matters worse, we were too slow to talk with all of you,” said Brack. “We didn’t live up to the high standards we set for ourselves.
Blizzard had the opportunity to bring the world together in a tough Hearthstone esports moment about a month ago and we did not.. I’m sorry and I accept accountability.
He is sorry for punishing Blitzchung for voicing a political opinion, and he is sorry for firing the two stream hosts for the mere fact that they are on a stream with Blitzchung when he voiced a political opinion, and yet funnily enough Blitzchung is still suspended and the hosts are still fired. On this week’s podcast we mentioned that a lack of clarity in Brack’s apology probably meant that this was the case – and now TDT can confirm that.
Following the apology a number of outlets reached out to Blizzard to clarify the situation of Blitzchung and the two hosts now that Brack is ‘sorry’, and were told that their situation had not changed. Brack himself said that he refused to lift the ban because it would open the floodgates to Blizzard streams being used as a political soapbox. He went on to say that Blizzard esports players have always been free to voice their opinion regarding Hong Kong on their own social media, but that it would not be tolerated on Blizzard streams.
Again, it’s not about the content of Blitzchung’s message, It’s about the fact that it was not around the games. If we hadn’t taken action, if we hadn’t done something, you can imagine the trail that would be in our future around doing interviews. They would become times for people to make a statement about whatever they wanted to, on whatever issue. That’s just a path that we don’t want to go down. We really want the content of those official broadcasts to be focused on the games, and keep that focus.
One could almost see where Blizzard is coming from here if they were not demonstrably lying on two counts. Firstly, when Brack stood up to make his apology he was wearing a prominent rainbow badge to signal his support of international sodomy, so he clearly does not mind Blizzard streams being used as a soapbox to promote political causes. One could argue that a visual political endorsement is much less obtrusive than a verbal one, but then several weeks ago an American college Hearthstone team was also suspended for holding up a sign promoting Hong Kong independence during one of their matches, so this really is just hypocrisy on the part of Brack. Secondly, immediately following the suspension of Blitzchung an Overwatch coach was forced to delete his personal tweet in support of Hong Kong protestors, so this is also just a lie. The only reason that Blizzard will now allow employees and esports competitors to tweet about Hong Kong on their private accounts is because they have been forced to allow it by all the negative publicity. What an absolutely inept and horrible company. If you are going to lie, then at least make it believable! This has nothing to do with talking politics on streams, and everything to do with Blizzard licking the boots of Beijing.
Anthem Shows More Signs of Shutting Down
Just as predicted! TDT is starting to get really good at this. Anthem released in an appalling state. The favourite new trick of publishers is that they prefer to no longer finish developing their games before releasing them, but instead opt to ship them in a bare minimum state of completion, accompanied by a roadmap that promises that the game might actually be worth playing someway down the road if they do not decide to pull the plug on it first. Anthem is one of those games that is having the plug pulled on it.
Anthem’s roadmap has yielded no fruit whatsoever, aside from the Cataclysm beta. First Bioware removed the dates of promised forthcoming elements that comprised the Anthem roadmap, and then they removed the roadmap itself. Bioware claimed that they were doing this in order to focus on actually fixing the game, but this author was sceptical about the claim, and rightly so! It seemed at the time that support for the game was being wound down, and they were simply pretending that this was not the case.
This week Chad Robinson, the last lead working on Anthem support, announced his resignation from Bioware – thus ending his fourteen year career at the company. These are the kind of life decisions that one makes when they come to the end of a project. One can already smell the mothballs. Chad Robinson had been running Anthem development alongside Ben Irving, but then Irving quit a few months ago and now Robinson has quit too! Even if EA/Bioware had not planned of shutting down Anthem development, which they totally had, this resignation would still likely trigger the end of ongoing development regardless. Bioware is not going to bother to restaff in order to continue development on a dead game that is not making them any money. What an embarrassment of a game. What an embarrassment of a company!