An alleged post on Diablo Immortal’s Weibo account mocking President Xi Jinping has sparked an enormous controversy in China, which could easily lead to the game being banned.
Last week, Blizzard’s Chinese partner NetEase officially postponed the release of Diablo Immortal. Initially scheduled for release on June 23, NetEase justified the delay by citing various technical issues affecting the game’s performance. However, another reason for the postponement of Diablo Immortal could have been based on an alleged post on the game’s Weibo social media account that mocked Chinese President Xi Jinping.
On May 22, Diablo Immortal’s Weibo account was accused of making a post that translates to “Why hasn’t the bear stepped down.”
As for the context, “bear” is a term often used in Chinese to describe incompetence and cowardice, mainly when it revolves around politics. It is also a word that is often used to denigrate President Xi Jinping, who is insultingly mocked as Pooh Bear. The message is presumably intended to ask when President Jinping will step down.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the alleged post from the Diablo Immortal account has provoked a vast adverse reaction within China. Social media is heavily regulated in the country, and criticism of public figures and politicians can have dramatic consequences. We have previously reported on several occasions, for example, here and here, on the severe retaliation resulting from inappropriate behaviour towards the country’s president or the CCP.
Nationalism also leads many social media users to react aggressively to political criticism, as evidenced by the bombardment of elements of the international games that can be linked, even implicitly, to criticism of China or President Jinping.
The situation is further exacerbated by the fact that President Xi Jinping is expected to begin his third term at the 20th National Congress of the Communist Party of China, which will be held later this year.
Critics are calling for President Jinping to ‘resign’, as in the alleged Diablo Immortal tweet, and for new leadership to be established within the country. This political move is often met with hostility on Weibo and other social media platforms.
How Diablo Immortal fits into the situation is unclear; nor is what will happen next. Video games in China are subject to an incredible amount of scrutiny before they can be licensed. Any controversy surrounding a project usually leads to it not being allowed to be released.
So far, no official confirmation is that Diablo Immortal has been banned in China. However, this does not necessarily mean that it will eventually be released.
There are also questions about the integrity of the alleged Weibo post. There is speculation on the internet that it was faked to undermine the Chinese release of Diablo Immortal due to anger over the game’s heavy monetisation. Suffice it to say that the situation is incredibly complicated; at this point, it is simply impossible to predict what will happen soon.