Recently, Blizzard Entertainment released a new update, Anniversary Remix Vol. 1, for Overwatch due to the game’s sixth year anniversary. In the update, while not listed, some players noticed small changes to a couple of Zarya’s alternate skins: the letter “Z” on her left shoulder being removed. This stealthy move stems from “Z” being seen painted on Russian tanks since the start of the invasion. While arguments ensued of what the “Z” truly meant; however, according to The New Yorker, “it had come to stand for loyalty, devotion to the state, murderous rage, and unchecked power.”
Since Zarya’s nationality is Russian, it makes sense why Blizzard wanted to remove any possible connections to Putin, Russia, or the invasion. Not only has Blizzard expressed support for Ukraine, but has imposed sanctions on Russia as well. Beliefs aside, Blizzard most likely also does not want any more negative attention because the company is still currently reeling from their 2020 controversy of company-wide sexual harassment scandal and the lawsuits that followed. With many employee walkouts, accusations of union-busting, and Blizzard being disinvited to video game events, Blizzard probably wants to maximize damage control in order to be allowed back at video game conferences. So, with the fervor of anti-Russia sentiment due to the Russian-Ukrainian conflict, somewhat at ridiculous heights, Blizzard most likely wants to prevent another controversy.
This move should come as no surprise as Blizzard has removed numerous things in Overwatch due to controversy. During the Overwatch beta in 2016, Blizzard removed a Tracer stance over complaints of the stance over-sexualizing the character. Additionally, Blizzard removed a graffiti spray detailing a noose over complaints of racism received by players. Furthermore, the noose was replaced with a horse shoe a month after George Floyd’s death, most likely because the noose represents racial violence in the United States. Lastly, Jesse McCree’s name was changed to Cole Cassidy over the controversy of Blizzard having named characters after employees that perpetrated a “frat boy” work environment.