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EA and Blizzard

The PR disaster that is Blizzard, Hong Kong, and The Hearthstone Grandmasters.

It’s unbelievable that Blizzard has topped their blunder from last year’s Blizzcon. Recently the Hearthstone Grandmasters tournament in both Asia-Pacific and NA has run into some trouble. After a live protest demonstrating support for the Hong Kong protests in a post-match interview, Blizzard removed Blitzchung from the their Hearthstone Grandmasters tournament. They banned Blitzchung for a year and they also made him ineligible to receive any winnings from his participation in the Hearthstone Grandmasters tournament. They also fired both of the on stream casters. Blizzard’s merciless and swift retort caught the eye of online communities and an uproar ensued.

Here’s how we would have handled it: 

The punishment for the political stance would have been less severe. Maybe suspend the player for a week or two and have their matches recorded as losses. But we would have definitely been against nullifying his winnings. And we definitely wouldn’t have fired the casters. Rules were broken and they need to be enforced. Just not with the level of voracity that Blizzard displayed. We also would have explicitly let all the players know that future political displays of any nature would lead to bans. 

The subreddit r/blizzard even had to go private due to the sheer amount of hate it was receiving from them. To compound the issue further Blizzard has maintained complete silence on the matter in the West.

Here’s how we would have handled it: 

Blizzard committed and continues to commit a huge blunder. Silence. There is no better way to create a negative brand image than by remaining silent during a crisis. Boeing faced a similar backlash for their silence during the 737 Max crisis. A clear and open statement on why the transgression merited such a severe punishment would have been much better. The Hearthstone twitter account only tweeted out a vague statement linking to their vague rules. It’s up to Blizzard to enforce those rules as they see fit but the communication has to be there. 

The ramifications from their actions have now created a veritable Streisand Effect across the internet. Blizzard workers have staged walk-outs and protests. The Hearthstone caster Brian Kibler has stepped down as caster for the Hearthstone Grandmasters Tournament as well as Blizzcon in protest to Blizzard’s handling of the whole Blitzchung situation. It has even caught the attention of multiple politicians in Washington DC like Senator Marco Rubio

Blizzcon is only a couple of weeks away and there are already murmurings on social media about staging protests at the convention. There have been calls in online communities to cancel Blizzard game subscriptions or uninstalling the games altogether. A massive Blizzard boycott movement is underfoot. Blizzard stands to lose quite a lot of western fans judging from online reaction. Hopefully Blizzard figures out what to do next. Their crisis PR management team are sure going to earn their paychecks.

Here’s how we would have handled it: 

Blizzard’s PR team should be working overtime to nullify the effects of the last three days. It’s too late to hope it all goes away. Even though news-cycles nowadays are extremely short it stands to reason that players won’t soon forget what happened. It’s an even bigger issue because Blizzcon is approaching. We’d hope that Blizzard is looking to avoid protests and demonstrations in Blizzcon. Since the aforementioned might be happening anyway we’d recommend that Blizzard set apart some demonstration areas and hire a few more security personnel for the event.