Blizzard’s (a)moral, and incredibly fast-moving Hong Kong fumble (repeated over the past few days by the NBA, and by extension, Disney’s ESPN) has suddenly become a lightning rod of a reminder of the nature of the gaming business. Companies and corporations aren’t our friends, and keeping a healthy distance informed by a baseline antagonism (someone wins, someone loses, and the winner is never you) is always the way to go.
On the China microblogging site Weibo, Blizzard’s statement in Chinese was: “We will, as always, resolutely safeguard the country’s dignity.”https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2019-10-09/gamers-call-for-boycott-of-blizzard-after-hong-kong-protest-ban
The above statement is just so unbelievably bad. B-A-D. That’s what really got me over the hurdle: A video game company defending the “dignity” of a government, of any government? I’m sure this message was not intended to ever come out of China, but I don’t think the general response (from dubious congressmen, no less) to it has been overstated, at all, given the magnitude of this mistake of a comment, and in fact has turned the situation from a gaming moment into something of an international-level incident.
I know, I know, some of y’all already can’t wait for this to blow over to get back to WoW Classic in peace: consumer “activism” 1)“grassroots collective organization of consumption or its withdrawal” per Lawrence Glickman is no-one’s idea of fun, exactly, and there’s actually something of a point to the idea that we shouldn’t grow too attached to our “consumer” identity (shoutout to Jason Schreier).
Buying games doesn’t make anyone a gamer (shoutout to my Steam backlog) – playing ’em does. So there’s that.
Still, many such consumerrilla camps have indeed sprung up in a matter of hours, not days: The Blizzard portion of Reddit is pretty much on fire right now (and will continue to burn, surely), there are pro-Hong Kong Mei memes popping up, and fans are sending GDPR requests en masse.
However you feel about this, my view of it is that although it’s impossible to consistently stay on top of things, it’s still good to try to know who and what we’re dealing with, exactly. An informed decision is almost always better than an uninformed one, even if the two ultimately turn out to be the same.
Sadly, I also don’t think it has been possible, for a long time now, for a dedicated gamer to have been an uneducated one… all these failed preorders, launches, developer shutdowns, Kickstarters, and Epic Games have time and time again proved that you’ve got to stay on top of your shit if you don’t want to get screwed over. I think all these things combined have moved us collectively towards “consumerism,” whatever we think of it, and alertness.
[…] fool me once, shame on — shame on you. Fool me — you can’t get fooled again.George W. Bush, Nashville, Sept. 17, 2002
It’s nice to enjoy a product here and there, for sure, but you’ve gotta remember making money is about making money and that’s all there is to it. Devs aren’t our friends and the oft-seen “But muh toxicity” argument is often a carefully calculated deflection of the real matter at hand, which is the cover-up and the protection of making dough.
The really weird thing to me about all this is, Activision-Blizzard is not even all that China-owned; Tencent owns just 5% (4.8%?) of Activision-Blizzard – about the same as they do of Ubisoft (and even then, these shares are mostly due to Vivendi’s hostile takeover attempts – thanks Vivendi)! And yet they were completely, totally willing to instantly sell out to China due to the size of the market and its profound monetary pressure.
It should be more than a little obvious that the entire Western world stands with Hong Kong. We’re for free speech. We’re for democracy. We’re for self-elected government. We’re against police states and dictatorships. Suddenly this has become a really tough choice if you’re Blizzy.
Honestly, it’s a little weird to restart this blog this way after two years, but… this is where we’ve gotten ourselves in the meantime. So, the rest of this post is a reminder, for future generations, my children, and yours, etc. I want to put it out there that we really didn’t like this one.
Disclaimer: In the near future, these percentages may no longer be accurate, and they may have been sourced wrong originally. But here’s what we’ve got as of 10/2019:
- Tencent owns the whole of Riot Games (League of Legends), almost all of 84.3% of Supercell (Finland, Clash of Clans), and 80% of Grinding Gear Games.
- They have nearly half of Epic Games (Fortnite & Epic Game Store), at 48.4% (or 40%, according to other sources).
- They’ve got that aforementioned 5-10% of Activision-Blizzard and Ubisoft.
- They have a surprising stake in four Swedish companies: the whole 100 % of Sharkmob (ex-Hitman, ex-Vermintide), Funcom (Conan & The Secret World) just sold them 29%, and Fatshark (Vermintide) was bought into with 36% early this year, seemingly making Tencent the largest shareholder in both. They also have a minority stake in Paradox (Crusader Kings etc.).
- They have 13.5% of Kakao (Black Desert Online) and 9% of Frontier Developments (Elite Dangerous).
It’s not a long list, but it’s also not a short list. They also have a small investment in Discord. And, well, Tesla.
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