News: BioWare and Die-o-Threats

Square Enix Cancels Tourney Over Death Threats

Last September 30 emails were sent to the offices of Square Enix which simply contained the Japanese word for ‘kill’. Back in April of this year a 25 year old nursing care worker was arrested for issuing angry death threats to Square Enix employees after spending US $1800 on loot boxes to obtain a specific item, only to still fail in obtaining it. Last week a 40 year old man was arrested for threatening Square Enix with a repeat of the tragedy that befell KyoAni. Now just this week there was supposed to be a Starwing Paradox tourney held in arcades across Tokyo, Yokohama, Nagoya, and Fukuoka over the next two weekends – only Square Enix had to cancel the event after a spate of death threats were issued against the game’s management team.

BOOM - happy festival fireworks!
What is it about Square Enix that makes normal people want to threaten them with violent death?

Japan is pretty much the most polite country in the world – so then what is it about Square Enix which engenders this response time and again over such a short period of time? All of these threats seem to have been issued against different games and divisions within Square Enix, but then what is it about Square Enix which makes the usually polite people of Japan feel like they can casually issue death threats against its employees? It seems to this author that Square Enix must be widely viewed as the EA of Japan by the company’s domestic audience – else none of this behaviour makes any kind of sense. Either the Japanese society has fallen precipitously over the course of the last year, else Square Enix is fast becoming the exception to the rule, as an entity no longer deserving of basic civility in the eyes of the people.

An Ominous Week for Die-o-Ware!

On this week’s podcast the panel discussed the fact that Ben Irving, the lead producer of Anthem, had just announced his departure from BioWare. This came as no great surprise. Anthem was a terrible bomb for BioWare, and at this point the playerbase has dwindled to such an extent that any positive reception to a content fix would have to be received pretty bigly indeed for it to even move the needle. Anthem only got a scant three indirect mentions in EA’s most recent earnings call, and in all likelihood Irving is now leaving the company because all work on the game has now ceased – so definitely no surprise to see him gone.

Dragon Age 4 is going to be terrible!
A longtime Dragon Age producer is fleeing the sinking ship.

The bigger news for the week is that within days of Ben Irving resigning from BioWare, Fernando Melo also handed in his resignation.

To be clear, this is my own decision. I’ve been wanting to take some time to disconnect and explore a couple ideas for next chapter in my career.

Melo has been serving as the lead producer of Dragon Age 4, which is only a year into development. If this sounds familiar, then it should, because it is the story of Anthem’s development. The lead development positions were a game of musical chairs, as senior developers quit left and right, and had to be replaced. Now the same thing is happening with Dragon Age 4. Dragon Age 4 is going to be a disaster, and BioWare is finished. The chickens are coming home to roost, and the rats are fleeing the sinking ship. The only employees who are committed to remaining at BioWare are the ones who will struggle to find work once BioWare goes under.

Gearbox Bans Wrongthink Criminals

It is almost as if someone has double-dared Randy Pitchford to tank Borderlands 3 before it even releases. First Randy Pitchford proudly tweeted a video clip of animal abuse, wherein a person deliberately attempted to injure a cat because they thought it was funny – great PR! Next up TDT brought you the news last week that Gearbox had hired a couple of goons to go and intimidate a YouTuber for reporting on publicly available information – great PR! Now just this week Gearbox are banning people for not using the preferred pronouns of Borderlands 3’s tranny robot, Fl4k. Great PR!

Go to thought jail!
Whatever you do, don’t offend the fictional robot!

Gearbox has stated that Fl4k’s pronouns are they/them, and that anyone who ‘misgenders’ him in the Gearbox forums will be banned. The tranny thing is a very obvious virtue signal, which only seems to have been put into place within the last couple of months. Up until a few months ago the game’s developers were talking about Fl4k using he/him pronouns, and the game’s official character guide (released just this week) also referred to him as being a ‘he’:

One of the strongest early game builds for FL4K, I personally think, is using his Fade Away skill with the modification that allows unlimited shots while cloaked. Pair that with the Jakobs manufacturer perk of every critical shot ricochets to another enemy, and you’ll have high powered bullets bouncing everywhere.

Right now it is just Gearbox forum goers who are being banned for ‘misgendering’ the robot, but it really does not stretch the imagination to conceive of a situation wherein Gearbox starts to ban players for ‘misgendering’ the robot during online play – especially since Blizzard have already set the bar in this respect. Anyone planning on picking up Borderlands 3 would be well advised to be up on their social justice pronouns, else risk losing access to their game.


  1. Not buying Borderlands 3. Not buying any more games from Gearbox/2K. Sending private investigators to harass a guy for sharing publicly-released thumbnails was a bridge FAR too far. The rest is just icing.

    Square Enix as the “EA of Japan” would be a massive reversal from their position a decade or so ago as the most beloved of Japanese gaming companies. One shouldn’t draw conclusions from isolated incidents perpetrated by dangerous cranks, but I am interested in what the wider Japanese attitude towards Square Enix might be.

  2. Ok, but when do ‘isolated incidents’ become a ‘pattern of behaviour’? This has happened to them four times in the last year – in Japan!

    If there has been four very public death threat incidents inside a year, then can you imagine how many regular people must be sick of SE’s shit, but just don’t say anything because they’re not unstable psychopaths?

  3. Plenty of companies in the US get far more in the way of death threats sent to them. There are a lot of mentally ill people out there. And as globalism rolls along and American culture spreads further and further, I’m not entirely certain that the culture of Japan is quite as polite and restrained as it used to be. Certainly there seems to be more than a little evidence that cracks are beginning to appear.

    That’s all aside, though. The point is that drawing large cultural assumptions on the basis of the behaviour of four nutjobs is a classic example of a hasty generalisation. Come on. The size of the conclusion has to have some kind of reasonable ratio with the quality and quantity of the evidence used to support it.

  4. OK, but we are not talking about US companies in general, we are talking specifically about a game publisher in Japan. Comparing SE to, for example, a US bank (who is responsible for repossessing many thousands of homes every year) only serves to obfuscate the situation because we are not comparing like things. One is capable of materially effecting a person’s life to the detriment, while the other, In most cases, is not.

    Square Enix has been the recipient of 4 widely reported death threats inside of a year – all of them from Japan. I can’t think of any other game companies that this has happened to. Maybe it has been underreported in other instances though? If someone told me that EA or Randy Pitchford had received that many death threats inside of a year, then I would have very little difficulty in believing that. They may have simply withheld that information because it was the result of their own embarrassing conduct, and so not drawing attention to it was better for PR. But that is just speculation, and is completely unknowable. What we do know is that SE has reported receiving more death threats than is usual for a game publisher to report, and all of them have come from the same geographic location, so is it really not worth asking the question of what has occurred here to create this unusual situation?

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    Entry Awarded – SiliconNooB (22 August)!

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