Blizzard - which remains embroiled in a messy legal battle following the State of California's lawsuit alleging sexual discrimination, harassment, and a "frat boy" culture at the company - has announced it will "pause" next year's BlizzConline as it looks to "reimagine" the event.
BlizzConline - which debuted this February as a digital-only replacement for Blizzard's annual BlizzCon live event in response to the coronavirus pandemic - was due to return "early" in 2022 after the company opted to cancel BlizzCon for a second year running back in May.
Now however, Blizzard has announced it's made the "tough decision" to "take a step back and pause on planning" of next year's BlizzConline. "At this time," the company explained in a statement, "we feel the energy it would take to put on a show like this is best directed towards supporting our teams and progressing development of our games and experiences."
"Additionally, we would also like to take the time to reimagine what a BlizzCon event of the future could look like. The first BlizzCon was held 16 years ago, and so much has changed in the time since," the statement continued. "Whatever the event looks like in the future, we also need to ensure that it feels as safe, welcoming, and inclusive as possible. We're committed to continual communication with our players, and we see BlizzCon playing a big role in that going forward. We're excited about what we'll do with the event when we revisit it in the future."
Blizzard may not have directly referenced the ongoing sexual harassment lawsuit - something else it tried to "pause", albeit unsuccessfully, in recent days - but its shadow hovers over today's announcement, both in its reference to "supporting its teams" and in its stated goal of ensuring any future BlizzCon "feels as safe, welcoming, and inclusive as possible."
BlizzCon has, of course, been the focus of numerous disturbing allegations found in the State of California's lawsuit, including reports surrounding an event hotel suite used by former World of Warcraft senior creative director Alex Afrasiabi and other Blizzard employees, nicknamed the "Cosby Suite". BlizzCon's culture also came under renewed public scrutiny recently when a video from 2010 resurfaced showing senior staff - including now departed Blizzard president J. Allen Brack - openly mocking and dismissing a female fan during a World of Warcraft panel.
Concluding today's statement on the future of BlizzCon, Blizzard wrote, "Even though we aren't holding BlizzConline in February, we'll still be making announcements and updates for our games... You'll continue hearing about those through our franchise channels, with the talented people on the BlizzCon team playing a part in supporting these efforts."