Ubisoft apologized last week after receiving a wave of backlash on Chinese social media. The backlash comes from an advertisement for the upcoming Watch Dogs: Legion which many interpreted as supportive of recent Hong Kong protesters.
For context, starting last week, hundreds of thousands of Hong Kong citizens took to the streets to protest a proposed extradition bill that would allow people in Hong Kong to be extradited to China to face trial. At some locations, tensions even escalated to the point of violence, with Hong Kong police firing tear gas and rubber bullets into the crowd during a conflict that resulted in 11 arrests and 22 police officer injuries. The current protests bear some parallels to 2014's Umbrella Movement, an extended period of unrest in which protesters shielded themselves from tear gas using umbrellas.
It's a difficult political situation that seems incredibly distant from the idyllic world of the video games industry, at least until a Watch Dogs: Legion ad enters the fray.
On Wednesday, June 12th (June 13th in China Standard Time), Ubisoft posted an advertisement for the upcoming Watch Dogs: Legion on Facebook and Weibo in both English and Mandarin Chinese versions. As recorded and translated by ResetEra user vinnykappa, the two were slightly different, with the Chinese version omitting the name London in the post's main body and instead including #London at the bottom.
Despite Watch Dogs: Legion taking place in post-Brexit London, the timing of the advertisement coupled with the use of umbrellas in the imagery led many mainland Chinese to believe that the company was making a political statement of support in favor of the Hong Kong protests. In the ensuing outcry, Weibo users criticized the company for posting a political opinion from an official account and for allegedly supporting the movement. Following the backlash, Ubisoft posted an apology for advertisement, clarifying that the company had no intention of supporting the anti-extradition bill movement.
This isn't the first time Ubisoft has found itself under fire for allegedly including or not including politics in its games. In the months leading up to the release of The Division 2, some vocal gamers accused the company of trying to inject politics into its looter shooter. At the same time, other gamers criticized the game for not embracing the politics of its post-war Washington DC setting. In the face of both arguments, the developers insisted that the game made no sort of political commentary, though that did little to stymie the criticism from both sides. So far it sounds like they'll have to go through a similar song and dance for Watch Dogs: Legion.