Call of Duty breaks records as publisher faces Hong Kong backlash

A mobile version of video game Call of Duty has been downloaded more than 100 million times in its first week.

However, a boycott aimed at the game’s publisher, Activision Blizzard, has been launched after Blizzard placed a 12-month ban on a Hearthstone gamer who staged an online protest over the political crisis in Hong Kong.

The hashtag #Blizzardboycott is now trending on Twitter.

Boycotters included Mark Kern, a developer who has worked for Blizzard.

“It’s done,” tweeted Mr Kern, with a screenshot suggesting he had just cancelled his subscription to World of Warcraft.

“Unless/until they completely reverse their stance on this issue (which, unfortunately, doesn’t seem likely) they will get no more money from me,” wrote one Reddit user in a long thread about the boycott.

The latest title in the hugely popular Call of Duty franchise has been well received by gamers, according to download statistics from Sensor Tower.

The company said the game, which was released on 1 October, had enjoyed the biggest mobile launch yet.

A PC and console title, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare, is due to be released on 25 October.

Journalist Ian Miles Cheong tweeted he had previously pre-ordered the game but, having joined the boycott, had now requested a refund.

Activision Blizzard’s share price had fallen by 2.3% by the close of trading on Tuesday.

However, the backlash was unlikely to cause serious commercial problems for Activision Blizzard, said James Batchelor, UK Editor at GamesIndustry.biz.

“It’s negative PR and that’s never great for a company but I can’t remember an instance where a consumer-led boycott has led to a significant drop in sales in the video games industry,” he told the BBC.

“These games have such a vast audience that I would almost say almost half don’t even know what’s happening… The vast majority of Call of Duty players are so casual, so mainstream.”

BBC News has contacted Activision Blizzard for comment.

Why are some gamers angry with Blizzard?

Ng Wai Chung is the name of the gamer banned for 12 months by Blizzard. He uses the pseudonym Blitzchung.

During a post-match interview on the official Hearthstone Taiwan video stream, he donned a gas mask and shouted: “Liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our age.”

Blizzard said tournament rules said players must not offend people or damage the company’s image.

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Other US technology have become embroiled in the controversy over Hong Kong.

China’s state media this week criticised Apple for listing an app in its app store designed to track the movements of police officers in Hong Kong.

The People’s Daily newspaper said the app was an endorsement for “rioters”.

The tool, HKmap.live, was not named explicitly by the newspaper.

It works by asking users to cite the locations of police and anti-government protesters. This data is then displayed on a map.

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Ancestry.com apologizes and deletes ad after slavery backlash

Ancestry.com apologized Thursday for a controversial advertisement published to its YouTube channel earlier this month. The ad appeared to show a white man trying to convince a black woman in what appears to be in the antebellum South to head North with him to get married. It received immediate backlash online, with many people claiming the ad ignores the violent history of slavery. 

The ad — called “Inseparable” — was uploaded to Ancestry’s channel at the beginning of the month. The caption of the video described the two actors in the video as “lovers.” 

“Abigail,” the man says as he shows her what appears to be a wedding ring. “We can escape to the North. There’s a place we can be together, across the border.”

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The woman attempts to respond, but the man interrupts, asking “Will you leave with me?” 

Much of the online criticism of the ad focused on its romanticization of interracial relationships in the slave-owning South. Many pointed out that rape — not love — is the main reason why many black Americans have white ancestry.

Following the extensive online backlash, Ancestry — a popular site for tracing family history — has removed the ad. “Ancestry is committed to telling important stories from history,” the company said in a statement to CBS News Thursday. 

“This ad was intended to represent one of those stories,” the statement said. “We very much appreciate the feedback we have received and apologize for any offense that the ad may have caused. We are in the process of pulling the ad from television and have removed it from YouTube.”

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Carphone Warehouse faces Black Friday backlash

Carphone Warehouse-owned website Mobiles.co.uk and other online phone retailers are facing a backlash from customers wrongly refused Black Friday smartphone deals.

A problem with Vodafone’s credit check systems meant that some applications submitted via the contract resellers were incorrectly turned down.

The BBC understands that about 5% of consumers experienced the issue.

Many affected complained on social media and Trustpilot’s review site.

Although Vodafone is offering to recheck applications from anyone who contacts it, this has not always been communicated to the rejected customers.

Carphone Warehouse-owned website Mobiles.co.uk has attracted the brunt of the fallout.

This is in part because one of its iPhone XR deals gained a huge amount of publicity.

But it is also related to the fact the business charges 13p a minute to call its sales helpline.

Some customers have said they were on the line for more than an hour without the matter being resolved.

The Black Friday weekend represented one of the busiest times of the year for smartphone sales.

In some cases, retailers took as many orders in a few days as they would normally take in two months.

Rejected deals

The BBC initially flagged the issue of rejected credit checks to Mobiles.co.uk’s parent company Dixons Carphone on Monday, after noticing a number of complaints on Twitter.

“We have seen no change in our credit check ‘accept rate’ for this deal compared with our usual rate,” the firm responded.

A follow-up query was responded to on Wednesday with a similar reply, a statement by which the firm stands.

However, when the BBC spoke to a store assistant in one of the group’s Carphone Warehouse’s retail outlets, it was told that the shop had repeatedly had to submit some customers’ applications to get them approved, because of problems with Vodafone’s systems.

It appears, however, that members of the public who used the Mobiles.co.uk website only, had their details submitted once and were sent an automated rejection email if they failed.

Customers of other online retailers including Mobile Phones Direct, Affordable Mobiles and Fonehouse have reported experiencing a similar fate.

“Due to the high volume of interest in our Black Friday deals, the system dealing with credit applications from indirect partners experienced some issues,” said a spokeswoman for Vodafone.

“This meant that a small number of applications were declined incorrectly.

“The system is now back up and running properly and we are rechecking applications from anyone who has contacted us to query our decision on their application.

“These customers will still be able to take advantage of our Black Friday offers.”

Vodafone added that the follow-up checks would not affect consumers’ credit scores.

Dixons Carphone has acknowledged that some of its customers have still to be told whether or not they have been accepted, but it has not acknowledged Vodafone’s accuracy problem.

“Due to an incredibly high take-up of our very competitive Black Friday deals with Vodafone, there is a backlog processing credit checks,” said a spokeswoman.

“We’re working with Vodafone to resolve this and the backlog is expected to be cleared by the end of the week.

“Vodafone has told us they will honour the deals for those customers who ultimately pass the credit checks.”

One industry expert expressed surprise that Dixons Carphone had not addressed the failed credit checks.

“If you’re going to offer a promotion that almost looks too good to be true, the likelihood is that you are going to get deluged with people and you have to be able to cope with that as an organisation,” said Ben Wood from CCS Insight.

“If something then goes wrong you have to address that.”

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