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Things Aren't Looking Good For Diablo Immortal In China

"Diablo Immortal" hasn't been released in China yet and, after recent events, it looks like Chinese fans won't get to experience demon-hunting for some time. "Diablo Immortal" has already received criticism for its microtransactions and now it faces a new controversy. While the game's release in China had already been delayed to "optimize" the experience, it now seems possible that the game (and other Blizzard games) could be banned altogether. The issue involves a social media post and a certain cartoon bear.

Gaming industry analyst Daniel Ahmad had previously shared news from South China Morning Post that "Diablo Immortal" had been banned from Weibo. Now Dexerto reports the reason why. According to a Reddit post from a "Chinese Diablo fan," it seems the official Weibo account of "Diablo Immortal" made a post seeming to call for President Xi Jinping, the head of the Chinese government, to leave office, comparing him to Winnie the Pooh. The post reads "why isn't (Winnie) the bear going out of office yet?" Comparing President Xi's appearance to Winnie the Pooh has been a popular form of mockery for opponents of the Chinese regime since 2013 and has led the Chinese government to attempt to ban all things related to Winnie the Pooh and scrub any Winnie the Pooh images from their internet. Xi has also faced criticism and calls to leave office since he arranged for the elimination of term limits, allowing him to remain "president for life."

Winnie the Pooh Makes Trouble for Blizzard

It is currently unclear if this was a case of an activist employee using an official account to spread their message or of a careless employee accidently using the official rather than their personal account by accident. Either way, the damage has been and the gaming community is waiting to see how the Chinese government responds. So far, Dexerto reported that "Diablo Immortal marketing was completely shut down" and there are rumors that NetEase, Blizzard's publisher in China, will not be allowed to release games for three years.

This isn't the first time Winnie the Pooh references have landed game developers in trouble in China. In 2019, developer Red Candle Games pulled its game "Devotion" from Steam after it was discovered that someone on their team had snuck an Easter egg into the game that made reference to Winnie the Pooh and insulted Xi. Despite Red Candle Games claiming responsibility and apologizing for the incident, China still "revoked publisher Indievent's business license."

Just how Blizzard will respond and how far China will go in this case remains to be seen. If the rumors are correct and China follows its usual pattern, Chinese gamers may miss out on "Diablo Immortal" and other Blizzard games for years to come.