In a move that arguably could be seen coming, Blizzard Entertainment has announced the cancellation of BlizzCon 2022, and that the formerly annual gaming event is being put on indefinite hold effective immediately. The announcement comes after months of severe controversy swirling around a sexual harassment lawsuit filed against Activision-Blizzard.
BlizzCon has been an annual tradition for the well known developer and publisher of WarCraft, StarCraft, Diablo and Overwatch ever since 2005, and had an important place in the fandom culture that sprouted around these IPs. BlizzCon even weathered the COVID-19 pandemic by switching to an online format which, while not quite like the real thing, managed to keep up the unbroken annual streak.
Now, a highly publicized sexual harassment lawsuit filed by the Department of Fair Employment and Housing has done what a global health crisis could not, and the company officially announced that next year's BlizzCon has been cancelled, and right now the whole event is on hold as it goes through a process of reimagining.
Unsurprisingly, Blizzard does not acknowledge the lawsuit at all in the announcement, but the connection is pretty clear. The company does state that "whatever the event looks like in the future, we also need to ensure that it feels as safe, welcoming, and inclusive as possible."
BlizzCon comes into the picture - beyond the inherent ties to the company - due to a video that resurfaced as part of the online discourse regarding the sexual harassment lawsuit in its earliest motions. The video, from BlizzCon 2010, shows a panel of developers react dismissively and with disrespectful jokes to a female fan posing questions about the sexualization of female characters.
It was also during BlizzCon events that employees in leadership positions would stay at and chat about the infamous "Cosby Suite", a hotel room that was frequently referenced in problematic contexts in a group chat by some of those who were named as offenders in the harassment lawsuit.
BlizzCon 2022 was intended to be another online affair, as even though lockdowns are lifting worldwide, the COVID-19 pandemic is far from over, and some experts are concerned about new waves possibly causing tougher restrictions to return. In some regions of the world, it's still in full swing, which would make such a large scale event irresponsible in-person.
However, now the event won't be happening at all, and it isn't clear when - or even if - BlizzCon will return. Its connection with the lawsuit means a safe bet is not to expect it being organized until the entire legal situation is resolved, which potentially could take years.
Activision-Blizzard was beset by another lawsuit recently from the EEOC, which it immediately settled for $18 million. This settlement led to the unearthing of ethics violations on the part of two DFEH lawyers formerly involved with the EEOC that threatened to sink the whole lawsuit. The company very swiftly tried to have the whole case dismissed citing these violations, but the court rejected the motion.
So it seems that Activision-Blizzard won't be getting its swift resolution - the DFEH is not interested in a settlement, and this apparent shortcut has fallen through. This could mean that BlizzCon will stay on hold for longer than just one year, but the entire situation is highly malleable.
Blizzard promised to keep fans updated on the fate of the convention.