First, let's get caught up on everything that happened with Blizzard since our last column, which was entirely consumed by the company's banning of Hearthstone pro player Chung 'Blitzchung' Ng Wai for expressing public support for Hong Kong protestors during a Hearthstone Grandmasters stream:
QUOTE | "The specific views expressed by Blitzchung were NOT a factor in the decision we made. I want to be clear: our relationships in China had no influence on our decision." - Blizzard president J. Allen Brack reduces Blitzchung's ban for supporting Hong Kong protesters. Brack's statement was released last Friday evening after the end of business hours on the West Coast.
QUOTE | "As China amplifies its campaign of intimidation, you and your company must decide whether to look beyond the bottom line and promote American values—like freedom of speech and thought—or to give in to Beijing's demands in order or preserve market access, We urge you in the strongest terms to reconsider your decision with respect to Mr. Chung. You have the opportunity to reverse course. We urge you to take it." - A group of five U.S. senators and representatives from across the political spectrum call on Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick to drop the punishment for Blitzchung. If nothing else, it should give Kotick pause that Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Marco Rubio are willing to put aside their differences to drag him over the coals on this.
STAT | $570 million - Blizzard's revenues from the Asia Pacific region last year, accounting for over 25% of Blizzard's business worldwide.
QUOTE | "I knew I might have penalty or consequence for my act, because I understand that my act could take the conversation away from the purpose of the event. In the future, I will be more careful on that and express my opinions or show my support to Hong Kong on my personal platforms." - In a statement thanking Blizzard for reducing his ban, Blitzchung says he'll be quiet at Blizzard events in the future.
QUOTE | "..." - Blizzard's explanation for cancelling its Overwatch Switch launch party at the Nintendo World store in New York the day before the event was supposed to take place.
QUOTE | "Participants shall treat all individuals watching or participating in a Tespa event with respect. Participants may not take any action or perform any gesture directed at another Participant, Tespa Admin, or any other party or incite others to do the same which is abusive, insulting, mocking, or disruptive. Players may not use obscene gestures or profanity in their account names, player handles, team names, game chat, lobby chat or live interviews. This includes abbreviations and/or obscure references." - The official Hearthstone Collegiate Championship rule Blizzard cited in banning three players for six months after they silently held up a sign saying "Free Hong Kong, Boycott Blizz" at the conclusion of a match.
QUOTE | "Moving forward, we will continue to apply tournament rules to ensure our official broadcasts remain focused on the game and are not a platform for divisive social or political views. One of our goals at Blizzard is to make sure that every player, everywhere in the world, regardless of political views, religious beliefs, race, gender, or any other consideration always feels safe and welcome both competing in and playing our games." - J. Allen Brack, later on in his official statement from last Friday, giving me something to write about for This Week in Business.
OK, so here's what gets me. Blizzard clearly just wants everyone to get along and play its games together without all those pesky divisive social and political views. But that's an impossible standard to hold people to because it's out of their control. Everything is political to some degree, and things are only divisive when people disagree on them, so basically anything can become political and divisive if enough people start arguing about it.
For example, the Civil War was about slavery. White nationalism is abhorrent. Fascism is bad. America is a country of immigrants. Keeping children in cages is wrong. People shouldn't die just because they're poor. American presidents should not ask foreign governments to dig up dirt on their political rivals.
All of those statements are political and divisive now. At times in previous eras, all of those statements have been politically inert and not divisive in the slightest. But that changed because enough people got together to yell about them, so now, by Blizzard's own rules, none of those are acceptable statements or sentiments on its platforms.
Also unacceptable, by the letter of their law? Anything LGBTQ+, for certain. Yes, Blizzard likes to make a show of how progressive and accepting it is (even if it doesn't always follow through on that well), but let's face the sad truth that this is not an apolitical act. There are communities out there in the U.S. and abroad who find even the tolerance of LGBTQ+ people to be political and divisive. If Blizzard is going to abide by its own rules, surely that means no Pride flags, no LGBTQ+ characters, no acknowledgement of their existence.
And that's the problem with Blizzard's rules. So much of what's political and divisive in this country and throughout the world is people's very identities. When one group thinks another group shouldn't even exist, their continued existence is in itself political and divisive. Blizzard is pretending that it's possible to be truly apolitical, to have a massive socially engaged community with no politics, that its games have a true neutrality that other people are daring to violate. That's nonsense.
Blizzard doesn't get to ban people for commenting on Hong Kong, embrace commenting on LGBTQ+ issues, and pretend that's not an expression of its own values and the values of the people who work at the company and make these decisions. Blizzard's willingness to take a side for LGBTQ+ people but not Hong Kong protestors is absolutely a reflection of its values, and it's as political and divisive an act as anything Blitzchung said.
OK, enough about Blizzard. Let's at least get a taste of normalcy around here with some of our old favorite subjects: Loot boxes, crunch, and irresponsibly short-sighted greed that hurts everyone in the long run!
QUOTE | "While every blacklisting decision is a case-by-case decision, the BPjM typically applies its established and settled practice to others cases as well. Thus, other games with similar monetization models would become subject to a (significantly) increased risk of being blacklisted as well." - Baker McKenzie lawyer Sebastian Schwiddessen explains how a German regulator's move to ban the game Coin Master for gambling-like monetization could have a huge impact on all games in the country.
QUOTE | "As a creator of entertainment culture, Capcom believes that games should be enjoyed for the entertainment value they provide with gameplay, not for thrills associated with winning a lottery." - Capcom explains why it minimizes loot box elements in its mobile games and avoids them in its console titles.
QUOTE | "First and foremost, we are all focused on making the Day One experience awesome." - Activision explains why Call of Duty: Modern Warfare's Battle Pass system will launch some time after the game. You could see this as an admission that such schemes make games worse, or perhaps they're just worried that reviewers and word of mouth would suffer from any monetization scheme that locked desirable content away for those who will pay more for it.
QUOTE | "In that time period, there was no real awareness that working too hard could be detrimental to you. All I understood back in the day was the company wanted me to work, so I worked, worked, worked." - Mega Man composer Manami Matsumae talks about what it was like working at Capcom in the 1980s.
QUOTE | "They took our company, which was about 20 people, and grew it like overnight to 90 people. They burned through all the cash and just cratered the thing into the ground. And that left the core team sitting there saying, 'Oh my god, what just happened to us?'" - Jeri Ellsworth talks about her experience with the investors in her AR/VR start-up CastAR, and what lessons she learned for her new AR tabletop gaming company Tilt Five.
STAT | 1 - NBA 2K20's place on the NPD sales ranking for September. Also, NBA 2K20's ranking on the list of best launch month sales for a sports game. Also, the number of Canadian teams in the NBA. Also, the number of Canadian teams who are reigning champs. Ok, that's not really relevant, but the regular season tips off next week and I've only got a few days left to be smug about the Toronto Raptors being the best team in the league.