A certain political issue involving Hong Kong and the Chinese government has been acting like a black hole recently, dragging everyone into it regardless of how hard they try to run away. Activision Blizzard is just one of the latest corporations to become embroiled in the matter, though many would consider the injury to be self-inflicted. Banning a Hearthstone tournament winner for mentioning Hong Kong, taking away his prize money, and banning two of the casters for basically existing certainly seems to be the equivalent of shooting your foot, shooting your hand for shooting your foot, and then shooting your eyes for looking.
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Still, the show must go on as they say, and no show is more important to Blizzard than BlizzCon. At its core, BlizzCon is a giant Blizzard-themed party where Blizzard gets to show off all of their highly anticipated projects. Last year's highlights included the debut of Diablo Immortal, the Diablo game for phones, which managed to surprise everyone by being the first Diablo game to be developed for the express purpose of being turned into a meme.
This year, in a move that is totally unrelated to the aforementioned Hearthstone incident, Blizzard announced more security measures for BlizzCon. In the interest of maintaining a safe and secure society, Blizzard will be installing multiple, high-tech, art-of-the-state security cameras on every corner of the venue. These cameras will be able to scan faces from up to a mile away to make sure that everyone is accounted for when they enter and leave. Wouldn’t want anyone getting lost or kidnapped and organ harvested after all.
In addition, to ensure that free speech is protected in every form, the finest free speech specialists hired from completely private and local security companies will be deployed to BlizzCon. They will be responsible for keeping the event free from politics of any kind, and have been given extraordinary leeway to do so. A Blizzard employee stated that these individuals have been given the authority to confiscate signs and eject attendees for saying things that can cause an international incident. Furthermore, they can seize politically motivated props and costumes, and even confiscate electronic devices to prevent problematic social media posts. Attendees are especially encouraged to leave their Winnie the Pooh costumes, merchandise, and impersonations at home.
When asked about the motivations behind such seemingly draconian actions, a Blizzard spokesperson said that everyone’s safety is their primary concern. The only other contributing factor is whether or not attendees are having fun. In fact, the spokesperson stated that “We are a firmly American company with American values.” They claim that most people will never even see the extra security personnel coming, and that the cameras' high-tech face scanning features are primarily for measuring attendee engagement. If you look or act too dissatisfied, Blizzard will send a special van to pick you up for a special post-event interview—purely in the name of obtaining honest feedback for next year's BlizzCon, of course. Reports that the facial recognition data will also be used to teach AI how to market to and exploit certain demographics were denied.
To be absolutely clear, Blizzard states that the BlizzCon changes are not in response to pressure from the Chinese government. They just want to keep the event free from politics in any form. The unexpected last-minute cancellation of the Nintendo Switch Overwatch launch event was simply because they couldn't get these new security features implemented in time. It is merely a coincidence that this is all happening when major American businesses are coming under scrutiny for their overly friendly nature with China. That Blizzard allegedly scrapped plans to move BlizzCon entirely to China to take advantage of the greater population density has nothing to do with anything. Don't think too hard about how the Overwatch League will be hosting no small number of games in China for their three Chinese teams.
In all fairness, Blizzard admitted that intense social media backlash, scathing news coverage, alleged employee walkouts, and denouncement from politicians of every spectrum had an effect on their recent decisions. "Who knew that instantly banning some nerd and taking his rightfully earned prize money away for mentioning a topic that would greatly upset the totalitarian government of the largest emerging market in the world would be so complicated?" Blizzard promised to more carefully review their tournament guidelines in the future and hand out more thought-out, appropriate punishments as needed. It is hoped that this will at least partially dispel the idea that Blizzard is blatantly pro-China in its next under-advertised Hearthstone tournament that no one will know about.