Blizzard has cancelled the upcoming Nintendo Switch Overwatch launch event at the Nintendo New York City store. The event was scheduled to take place Wednesday Oct 16, a day after Overwatch arrives on the Nintendo Switch on Oct 15.
Nintendo’s New York City store shared the news via their Twitter account Tuesday morning.
Please be aware that the previously announced Overwatch launch event scheduled for Wednesday, 10/16 at NintendoNYC has been cancelled by Blizzard. We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause.
— Nintendo NY (@NintendoNYC) October 15, 2019
On Oct 8 the Nintendo NYC store had announced the special launch event on Twitter. Sharing that the first 150 fans to sign up would get to meet Overwatch voice actors to help celebrate the launch of Overwatch’s Legendary Edition for Nintendo Switch.
Blizzard hasn’t made any comment on the cancellation of the event, but it isn’t hard to guess why. With calls to protest BlizzCon mounting at an ever growing pace, it’s highly likely that Blizzard anticipated the same would occur at Nintendo’s New York City store during the special Overwatch Nintendo Switch launch party, and cancelled the event to avoid the bad press.
The protests stem from an event that occurred on the same day that the NYC event was announced, when Blizzard removed pro Hearthstone player Blitzchung from the Hearthstone Grandmasters Asia-Pacific tournament for his actions during a post-match interview, in which Blitzchung donned a gas mask and said, “Liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our age!”
As a result of Blitzchung’s actions to support the ongoing protests in Hong Kong, his home city, Blizzard banned him for future competitions for a year, fired the commentary team for the tournament, and took all of Blitzchung’s prize winnings from the tournament (nearly $10K USD).
The backlash from the fanbase following Blizzard’s actions against Blitzchung has been massive. Many fans have cancelled their plans to attend BlizzCon and Blizzard’s social media accounts are filled with photographs, videos, and written statements from fans who have deleted their Battlenet accounts and sworn off Blizzard for their actions. Social media across the board, including Blizzard’s subreddits, have been ablaze with anger, calls for protest, and memes deriding the company.
Fans have also gone out of their way to attempt and turn Mei, a popular Chinese playable hero from Overwatch, into a symbol of democracy and the Hong Kong protesters. The line of thinking being, if Mei becomes a symbol of Hong Kong, China will ban her, and thus Overwatch with her.
Blizzard’s actions are unfortunately inline with a disturbing and growing trend among western companies that are doing everything possible to avoid offending China in the face of the communist country’s crackdown on democracy. Any company seen to be in support of Hong Kong, Tibet, or Taiwan faces economic backlash from China’s government.
Three days after Blizzard’s actions against Blitzchung, the company issued a statement from company President J. Allen Brack, explaining the decision behind the actions taken and slightly walking back some of the actions taken against the player.
Fans at-large have called Brack’s statement an empty one, and have particularly taken issue with one part of the statement in particular, where Brack states “I want to be clear: our relationships in China had no influence on our decision.”