The developer behind Overwatch, Diablo, Hearthstone and World of Warcraft has come under fire for its handling of the Hong Kong protests.
Activision Blizzard is one of the most beloved brands in gaming. Fans are gaga about its titles, like the cartoonish shooting game Overwatch, the dungeon crawling game Diablo or the online fantasy game World of Warcraft.
But the way Blizzard handled a live competition for its online card game Hearthstone has soured fans.
On Oct. 8, Blizzard banned Hearthstone pro Chung "Blitzchung" Ng Wai after he expressed support for Hong Kong protesters focused on democratic rights. He appeared on camera for a livestream during the competition wearing a mask similar to those worn by protesters in the beleaguered city's streets and said, "Liberate Hong Kong!"
Blizzard initially banned Blitzchung from Hearthstone competitions for a year and stripped him of his prize money. Blizzard later reduced the ban to six months and returned Blitzchung's winnings. But that didn't stop angry fans, who saw the initial move as overreach, and a sign the company had turned on them.
Now Blizzard is preparing to hold its annual Blizzcon fan event, and some attendees plan to make their displeasure known. They've already begun organizing online, with one of the bigger protests planned for noon on Friday, Nov. 1, just after the company's keynote address.
Blizzcon is being held at the Anaheim Convention Center in Southern California. Festivities really kick off Nov. 1 at 11 a.m. PT/1 p.m. ET, with an "Opening Ceremony" keynote address that usually includes announcements about features for existing games and new titles. It's also when Blizzard in the past has spoken out against internet harassment, such as during #GamerGate in 2014.
A protest is planned for immediately after the opening ceremony, and before the beginning of a Hearthstone competition at the convention center.
CNET sister site GameSpot will be covering the protests, as well as each of the announcements from the show.
The opening ceremony is usually streamed live on Blizzcon's website, but for the rest of the show, fans will have to buy a "virtual ticket" that gives them access to livestreams of competitions and community events. This year that ticket will set you back $50, but it also includes digital cosmetic items for each of Blizzard's big games.