Ubisoft apologized last week after receiving a wave of backlash in Chinese social media. The backlash stems from an advertisement for the upcoming Watch Dogs: Legion which many interpreted as support for the recent demonstrators in Hong Kong.
As of last week, hundreds of thousands of Hong Kong citizens took to the streets to protest a proposed extradition bill that would allow people in Hong Kong to be handed over to China for trial. In some places, tensions even escalated to the point of violence when Hong Kong police shot tear gas and rubber bullets into the crowd during a conflict, resulting in 11 arrests and 22 police injuries. The current protests point to some parallels with the 2014 Umbrella Movement, a prolonged period of unrest in which protesters wearing umbrellas protected themselves from tear gas.
It's a tough political situation that's incredibly far from the idyllic world of the video game industry, at least until a Watch Dogs: Legion ad comes into battle.
On Wednesday, June 12 (June 13 in standard Chinese time), Ubisoft released an ad for the upcoming Watch Dogs: Legion on Facebook and Weibo in English and Mandarin Chinese versions. As recorded and translated by ResetEra user vinnykappa, the two were slightly different, with the Chinese version omitting the name London in the body of the post and instead containing #London at the bottom.
Although Watch Dogs: Legion took place after the Brexit in London, the timing of advertising and the use of umbrellas in the pictures left many Chinese people on the mainland suspect the company issued a political statement in support of Protests in Hong Kong. In the subsequent outcry, Weibo's users criticized the company for giving a political statement from an official account and allegedly supporting the movement. Following the backlash, Ubisoft issued an apology for the ad, making it clear that the company had no intention of supporting the anti-extradition law movement.
Posted by Ubisoft on Thursday, June 13, 2019
This is not the first time Ubisoft has come under fire for allegedly including politics in its games or not. In the months leading up to the release of The Division 2 some vocal players accused the company of trying to lend policy to its raider. At the same time, other players criticized the game for not accepting post-war politics in Washington DC. Given both arguments, the developers insisted that the game did not deliver political commentary, though that did not affect the criticisms of either side. So far, it sounds like they have to go through a similar song and dance for Watch Dogs: Legion .
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