Anywhere you look in the gaming space these days, one story is dominating the headlines. Blizzard just cant seem to get away from their decision to ban Hong Kong Hearthstone player Blitzchung over his support for the Hong Kong protests. A story they no doubt hoped would disappear in 24 hours has exploded. Now you’ve got gamers and non-gamer alike, as well as politicians and news pundits weighing on the decision. All of which has many people asking the question: Is this the beginning of the end for Blizzard?
I would argue no, but not for the reason you’d think. The beginning of the end for Blizzard has long since passed. The last 12 months have not been great for Blizzard, with the exception of Overwatch League. Let’s rewind the clock a year. Blizzcon 2018, an event that will not soon be forgotten. No matter how hard they tried to insist that Diablo 4 was not going to be announced, the rumors continued to persist. And so, when a Diablo announcement did come, people were none too pleased when it was a mobile game. Blizzard has never been allowed to forget it either.
From bad to worse
Fast forward a few months, and we get the massive layoff from Blizzard Entertainment. In the midst of the company reporting record profits, they laid off over 800 employees. Once again, a firestorm was ignited as people criticized the company for greed and mismanagement. Beyond that, the loss of the Destiny IP made Activision look none too good either.
Over the next couple months, we see more and more of Blizzard’s old guard being phased out as Activision assumes more control of the company. We begin to see claims that games from Blizzard’s major IPs will be seeing more frequent releases. Normally, this would be met with jubilation, but in the era of Call of Duty and Assassin’s Creed games being released way too often, it comes off as cheap and worrisome. Blizzard always stood for quality games that released when ready. This didn’t feel like that.
A light at the end of the tunnel?
A few months of positive results from Overwatch League seemed to get Blizzard out of its funk. World of Warcraft Classic launched to massive success, OWL sold out the Wells Fargo Center, and all was well. Except those feelings of mistrust and lost confidence were still there from the fanbase, waiting to rise back up the surface. And all it took was a match to light the powder keg.
Fast forward to now. Blizzard bans Blitzchung after he voices support for the Hong Kong protests following a Hearthstone tournament. A year long ban, a reduction in prize money, and removal from Grandmasters. Whether you think punishment was warranted or not, that was a harsh price to pay. Blizzard now has open rebellion on their hands, from staff, press, and players alike. Boycotts, collegiate teams forfeiting matches, staff walking out, and press proclaiming the end times. But this is not the beginning of the end for Blizzard. The flash point moments seldom are the beginning. They’re merely the the spark that ignites all the other feelings of discontent. We’re seeing that play out in real time now.
Best of luck Blizzard, you’re gonna need it.
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