Update: We received the following statement from a Blizzard representative.
"Savjz was not excluded from yesterday’s Battlegrounds Brawl event due to his relationship or any type of blacklist. We didn't consider him for it due to a discussion where he did not agree to our request for confidentiality. We reveal unreleased information at our events, so it's important to us to have agreements in place with all partners that prevent the sharing of that info with anyone who isn't approved to receive it, including friends and family. This is a team policy, not an individual's decision. We strive to support and treat fairly all of our partners, content creators, and streamers."
Well-known streamer and Hearthstone player Janne "Savjz" Mikkonen revealed today that Blizzard appears to be blacklisting him from promotional events, with an odd explanation dating back to January. Savjz states that at that time, Blizzard considered he and his wife, Christina Mikkonen, as a “liability” for events.
This refers to a 2019 incident where Blizzard shocked the gaming industry by posting record profits while terminating 800 employees with no warning, Mikkonen among them. A short while after this devastating news hit, Blizzard began posting those same positions to be fulfilled, but not by those employees who were let go. Mikkonen responded in the tweet below:
Savjz confirmed over Twitter that the tweet is the reason that he is no longer welcome at Hearthstone events.
Ultimately, we only have partial information about what might be happening, as Blizzard has not formally responded to these comments made by Savjz and is unlikely to do so either. However, it would be perfectly on-brand for Blizzard to be barring Savjz from its events due to his relationship with Mikkonen, and that should not be a surprise to anyone. Blizzard has always come down hard on any individual who tarnishes its brand, even if that comes in the form of calling them out on their behavior.
The last time we saw Blizzard dole out punishment by association was in 2019, when Ng Wai Chung, known in the Hearthstone esports community as Blitzchung, was banned for making a pro-Hong Kong statement. The unfortunate collateral damage in that instance was that two casters were fired for being in the unfortunate position of interviewing Blitzchung remotely.
Unfortunately, while the situation seems like a bad deal for Savjz, this is the reality of corporate life and branding for Blizzard. Those who want to participate in their world of competitive gaming in the public eye need to keep up appearances and maintain a specific image.
At the end of the day, consumers seem more than happy to continue supporting Blizzard no matter what they do. It will be fascinating to see if one day they do go too far, to a point where consumers collectively reject this kind of behavior, but there are no signs of that occurring any time soon.
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