So here is something interesting. There’s a blog on tumblr that’s been around for a fair time, askagamedev, run by an anonymous dev. Usually they’re answering broad questions about industry trends or How Do You Do X Specific Thing. Often pretty interesting.
They were asked about the HK-Activision-Blizzard thing and it’s a long post but worth reading, but something stood out to me as something I hadn’t really seen talked about.
Now that you’re all caught up, let’s talk about Blizzard and their business situation in China in general. China represents an enormous portion of Blizzard’s market. One of the designers I know at Blizzard said “I was once told that Warcraft is to China what Star Wars is to the US” and I believe it. China has gone so far as to build a Warcraft-inspired (but not licensed) [theme park]. You’d think this might give them some clout, but you’d be wrong. The CCP has no qualms about completely banning any company that steps out of line.
Here’s the thing - a lot of Blizzard’s critics in this situation are saying that it’s greed motivating their decision… but I don’t think it’s just greed. If Blizzard gets cut off from China, it would be disastrous for their bottom line, as well as Activision-Blizzard’s valuation. That would not only mean they lose a lot of money, but the entire company (and many of their employees’ jobs) is potentially in jeopardy. Given just how much of their business is done in China, I would not be surprised if being banned from China would be an existential crisis for Blizzard as we know it. For anybody within Blizzard, that should be terrifying.
And their conclusion is:
Now that we’ve been through all that, here are my own thoughts on the matter: Blizzard is stuck between two awful choices. This has become a full-blown international incident, which puts it in a different class entirely than the usual kinds of gamer recreational outrage. It’s a public relations shitstorm of the highest degree and one that will likely take years to recover from. However, their only other option is potential ruin with many, many lost jobs and irreparable harm done to the company at the pleasure of an authoritarian government.
If this is at all accurate-- and who knows if it is, they’re an anonymous dev, albeit anonymous for good reason-- it paints a very uncomfortable picture. Activision-Blizzard is not a company I would lose sleep over if they went under tomorrow (I find their arbitrary firing of employees and their use of microtransactions heinous) but the potential human cost of lost jobs is frankly very concerning.
Just some food for thought, I think it’s an interesting perspective to keep in mind.