Netease, one of China’s largest companies and one of the world’s top 25 or so tech firms, saw their share price tumble on Monday after a post that was "suspected of alluding to Winnie the Pooh", to quote a line from the Financial Times. References to Winnie the Pooh (yes, the cartoon bear) are a popular way to deride Chinese President Xi Jinping.
The drop in share price came after the company said over the weekend that it would delay the Asian release of Diablo Immortal, a game made by Blizzard, but operated in China by Netease. This led to a 9% drop on the Hong Kong market, to HK$13, but reports are also circulating that the official Diablo Immortal account has been suspended on Weibo, potentially as a result of the social media post.
Blizzard themselves have stated the reason for the delay is to allow their development team to make “a number of optimization adjustments to the game”, including things like support for a wider range of devices, better rendering on more models, and other performance optimizations. There was no mention of the social media post in their announcement, or acknowledgement of the issues with the Diablo Weibo account.
Chinese patriots up in arms
The particular post that seems to have annoyed the Chinese administration was found on Blizzard’s Weibo account, and can be seen above. The Financial times have translated the meaning of the post as follows, “Why hasn’t the bear stepped down?” However, in Kotaku’s report, they state their own translation comes out closer to “What do you think about the bear?”
It also seems that Blizzard have offended Chinese nationalists with another post, in which they used “Taiwan time” to announce the delay of the game. China is attempting to take control of Taiwan and deny the nation's independence, with one quite patriotic poster on Weibo apparently stating “Between the game and my country, I choose the latter.”
So far, there hasn’t been an official statement from Blizzard about the bear-related social media post, but there are a number of reasons the company may be unhappy with the Chinese government’s approach to gaming. The last year has seen multiple new laws come on targeting both games firms and gamers, which will no doubt have a negative effect on Blizzard’s bottom line.