The Ironic Power of Internet Boycotts, As Shown by Hogwarts Legacy

A look into the unexpected results of online boycotts.

                                                                             Story Highlights

  • Hogwarts Legacy was released in early February to a critically positive reception from gamers and critics. 
  • Many trans creators, however, started a boycott against the game for the transphobic views held by the author of the Harry Potter series, J.K Rowling. 
  • The boycott ended up failing due to a wide variety of reasons, and Hogwarts Legacy ended up as a massive commercial success, surpassing the likes of even Elden Ring in commercial sales.

So, back in October, a week before the release of Bayonetta 3, voice actress Helena Taylor posted a video of herself on Twitter regarding pay disputes with Platinum Games.

In the video, Taylor highlighted the absurdly low payment offer that she had allegedly received from Platinum Games and an equally insulting offer upon directly contacting Platinum Games founder, Hideki Kamiya. She then asked all Bayonetta fans to boycott the game and instead donate that money to charity. 

The news spread like wildfire, everyone (including ourselves) was scrambling to cover anything they could find about the situation. On one hand, there were the legions of fans that were willing to boycott the game over what had happened to Helena Taylor, and then there were the rest who didn’t particularly care. 

It escalated to the extent that many respected actors in the industry chimed in with their own stories in order to support and defend Taylor over her accusations against Platinum Games. 

Yet, even before the news was proven to be false, Bayonetta 3 climbed to the top of the charts for pre-order on Amazon. While Nintendo’s marketing efforts certainly helped, this was the third game in an already niche series in an even more niche genre. Before this, the Bayonetta series had never really been what one might call a record-breaking hit. 

Bayonetta 3
Bayonetta 3

Four months after its launch the game has become one of Platinum’s highest-selling titles, as well as the best-performing game in the entire franchise, reaching near Bayonetta 1’s lifetime sales in the span of four months. 

The boycott ended up being a blessing for Nintendo and Platinum as it gave the game way more publicity than it could have ever received otherwise.

Lesson learned? Boycotts give free publicity and marketing to products that would otherwise might just be niche and not even that well known. Not everyone in the world is keenly aware of social media fiascos and Twitter spats. 

Fast forward to February 2022 and a similar situation arises with the recently released Hogwarts Legacy. A game set in the world of the Harry Potter books written by J.K Rowling, an author who has been condemned not only by a large number of her fans but also by a majority of the cast from the Harry Potter movies for her deeply transphobic views regarding trans women. 

The boycott started soon after the announcement of Hogwarts Legacy but reached a fever pitch close to the game’s launch.

The majority of trans users on various social media outlets have called out Rowling over her beliefs and attempted to boycott Hogwarts Legacy. Surprisingly, however, this has had an opposite effect and Hogwarts Legacy is already the biggest hit of this year surpassing even major titles such as Elden Ring. 

On top of that, the message was further muddled by “activists” harassing anyone who was “caught” streaming the game, going so far as to create an entire website meant to target anyone on Twitch who streamed Hogwarts Legacy.

Many users are doing what you might call “spite-buying” as in buying the game solely to provoke the side calling for a boycott. That’s where the irony comes in, telling strangers online to not do something will almost always have the opposite effect, likely because internet anonymity makes it so that many people over the internet do not like to be held to a moral or ethical standard.

Hogwarts Legacy
Hogwarts Legacy

However, it would be disingenuous to cast the reasoning for Hogwarts Legacy’s success solely on a failed boycott. The truth remains that millions of people, including myself, grew up with Harry Potter, so the idea of a big-budget open-world AAA game set in that universe is a dream come true for many. The fact that it’s also just a genuinely good game also certainly helps. 

But this doesn’t distract from how boycotts inadvertently end up giving products even more publicity. Only recently, a user on Twitter started a fake boycott against the PC port of Housemarque’s Returnal.

A game that I strongly recommend you buy anyways. This fake boycott caused the game to skyrocket across Steam charts going from #38 to #21 in the span of a few hours. 

In these times where any outcry can have the opposite effect—the more strongly you push back against something, it just as strongly pushes back from the other side. 

There’s a very popular quote from the incredible Disco Elysium, “Capital has the ability to subsume all critiques into itself. Even those who critique capital end up reinforcing it instead,” and if that doesn’t summarize the essence of this argument, I don’t know what else could. 

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Nameer Zia is a video game News Writer on eXputer obsessed with hunting down all the latest happenings in the industry. Nameer has been gaming for more than 15 years, during which he has spent more than 3,000 hours on Overwatch 1 & 2. As a literature student, his literary chops feed into his passion for games and writing, using eXputer as the medium to deliver the latest news in the industry. Websites such as GamingBolt and IGN have also credited his works.

Experience: 4+ Years || Previously Worked At: Tech4Gamers || Education: Bachelors in English Literature.

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