Activision have been accused of censoring the trailer for Call of Duty Black Ops: Cold War on behalf of the Chinese government, after it used footage from the Tiananmen Square protests.
As previously reported, the Call of Duty Black Ops: Cold War reveal teaser featured footage of Yuri Bezmenov, a KGB informant who defected in 1970. After his defection, he dedicated his life to warning the US about the dangers of communism, and the methodology communists (and the Soviet Union) use to subvert a nation.
The trailer featured brief shots of historical footage from the period of the Cold War (roughly 1941 to 1991). This included footage of the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests and massacre, specifically the student protesters on top of a tank (1:05).
The majority of the footage shows scenes from Russia, the United States, and the Vietnam War. Based on the context of the trailer, it may have been used to represent the riots and civil unrest within the US resulting from communist subversion.
Now, the South China Morning Post reports that the trailer was censored in China, removing the Tiananmen Square footage. On Chinese video platforms such as Bilibili, the scene was replaced with a black screen.
Activision also released a shorter version of their trailer. While the initial trailer was unlisted and unlisted as part of a marketing campaign (where users had to seek out clues on a website), this new public trailer is only 1 minute long, and does not have the Tiananmen Square footage. The original trailer has now been privatized.
Considering the trailer is dubbed “Know Your History,” and discusses the tactics allegedly used by communist subverters in the US, many comments believe and are opposed to Activision censoring their trailer on behalf of the Chinese government. This may also be yet more consumers annoyed at seeing US companies act on behalf of the Chinese government.
As previously reported in a prior article, NBA Houston Rockets’ General Manager Daryl Morey showed his support for the Hong Kong protests, resulting in the Chinese government refusing to broadcast NBA games in China. South Park‘s “Band in China” episode also mocked entertainment companies such as Disney attempting to appeal to Chinese government censors.
There is also an extensive list of actions companies have taken to avoid upsetting the Chinese government in the last few years. Including the denial of Tibet and Taiwan as independent nations (even referring to Taiwan as its own country by accident), mentions of the Tiananmen Square Massacre, giving cloud and smartphone encryption keys to Chinese authorities, removal of intentionally pro Hong Kong comments and works, and firing employees for supporting the Hong Kong protests.
One incident had Tiffany & Co. removing and apologizing for an advert of a model with her hand over one eye, after claims it was supporting the Hong Kong protests. At least one protester had been blinded in one eye after being shot by police.
Other changes and kowtowing not on the above list include the remakes of Red Dawn and Top Gun compared to their original counterparts- making North Korea the villain instead of China in the former, and removing Japanese and Taiwanese flags in the latter.
The Tiananmen Square protests are dubbed the “June Fourth Incident” in China, with the Chinese government banning and censoring any discussion of the incident. Due to the ongoing censorship of video games within China, many Call of Duty games are banned in China due to portraying the Chinese government unfavorably, depict attacks on China (fictional or otherwise), violence, or use of zombies.
It is entirely possible that Activision are aiming to sell the game in China. However, it would be very surprising if the game portrays communism positively; considering the predominantly American audience for the games and the style of the teaser trailer.
However, Call of Duty Online – a free-to-play title- was sold in China in 2015 (and in beta in 2012). Call of Duty: Mobile was developed by TiMi Studios (a subsidiary of Tencent). Blizzard Entertainment (a subsidiary of Activision Blizzard like Activision) also drew ire from gamers last year for their perceived kowtowing to the Chinese government.
In October 2019, Blizzard had been denounced by many gamers over their suspension of pro-Hearthstone player Blitzchung for his support of the Hong Kong protests, firing the casters, and their overall handing of the entire debacle [1, 2, 3]. Even US Senators wrote to Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick, condemning the decision.
The full reveal of Call of Duty Black Ops: Cold War will premiere August 26th. We will keep you informed as we learn more.