The brand new Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War trailer was uploaded last week, and as you might suspect the droves of fans that love the series flooded the video to find that the video itself was mainly a teaser – footage of an interview with ex KGB agent Yuri Bezmenov talking about the infiltration of the United States by Communist aggressors, with footage of unrest in that period dropped in throughout the clip.
As far as teaser trailers go, it did its purpose well – people watched it, got a feel for the new setting and themes of the new Call of Duty without having any actual gameplay or footage shown.
However, this trailer has recently been taken down and edited due to about a seconds worth of footage in the trailer showing the protests from Tiananmen Square, and therefore invoking China’s censorship laws, meaning that this trailer is no longer viewable in China, as it’s been banned.
The reason that the Call of Duty teaser trailer was banned in China is pretty simple to explain: They do not allow any mention, discussion, or education around the event of the Tiananmen Square massacre.
In fact, the mere mention of the event itself could lead to your arrest in China, making its inclusion in the latest Call of Duty teaser trailer a pretty big abuse of its localized laws. Even though the footage shown was around (or less than) a second in length, it was apparently well known enough internationally and within China to prompt comments from the community watching the video itself.
Unsurprisingly, the trailer has been blocked and banned throughout China as a result – but here is where things get interesting.
Once the trailer was removed, the team behind the trailer set to work making things right. To most people, that might mean creating a separate video that can get past the CCP’s rigorous censorship laws, but what happened with this trailer was slightly different.
The entire trailer was taken down from the official Call of Duty YouTube channel and replaced with a much shorter one that has deleted the footage of Tiananmen Square. This is painfully obvious, as the original trailer measured in at 2:02 in length, whilst the new version is only 1:00 in length.
So, whilst it’s understandable that the Chinese version of the trailer is changed, why is it necessary for the official version on Call of Duty and Xbox’s main channels to be changed as well?
Realistically, the answer could range from a few different possibilities. It could be that marketing executives want to collect global stats on one video alone for reporting or future use, and this is the easiest way to do it. Or it could be that a shorter video aligns better with the goal of the teaser trailer itself.
One worrying possibility that presents itself though is that the huge Chinese media and gaming company own a five percent stake in Activision itself. This could mean that Activision has had pressure piled on it from its Chinese investors to pull their footage, rather than invoke the ire of the CCP, which could lead to lower profit margins in the region when they try to publish there in the future.
This wouldn’t be the first time that Activision-Blizzard has been at the center of controversy surrounding Chinese media manipulation and censorship. Remember in October last year, when Hong Kong native Chung Ng Wai (or ‘Blitzchung’, to give him his screen name) voiced his support for the Hong Kong demonstrations, and in response Blizzard banned the player for a year (denying him thousands of dollars in prize money) and fired the commentators who conducted his interview.
This is just the latest in the history of Activision and Activision-Blizzard’s co-operation in Chinese censorship even outside of Chinese jurisdiction, and it will be interesting to see how the companies navigate and react to public reactions to their decisions in the coming months.