TwitchCon Raises Prices and Eyebrows Amid No Mask, No Vaccine Requirement

The platform's decision is controversial among both its creators and its staff.

The Amazon-owned livestreaming platform Twitch drew widespread criticism this week after announcing the health guidelines for its first annual convention in the U.S. since 2019: TwitchCon 2022 won’t require attendees to be masked, nor vaccinated for COVID-19.

In an uproar on social media, many of the platform’s popular creators said they’ll be canceling their plans to attend the event, which kicks off in San Diego on Oct. 7. 

“Until Twitch decides to take the safety and health of its employees (streamers & staff) seriously, my recommendation as a Twitch Ambassador is that you should skip TwitchCon San Diego,” Able Gamers senior director of development Steven Spohn tweeted on Monday. “Mandatory masks and testing has shown to work at other conventions. TC should be no different.”

Other creators have been frustrated, too. 

“Definitely not going,” astronomer and streamer Dr. Pamela Gay said on Twitter. “TwitchCon, I’m not going to die for you. Us immunocompromised streamers are just staying home.”

The guidelines are in direct contradiction to the California Department of Public Health’s recommendations—which suggest organizers require masks, unless they provide proof of vaccination—and different from San Diego Comic Con, the fan event hosted at the same venue on July 21-24 (SDCC required proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test). 

Prior to the announcement on Monday, one Twitch user started a vote on the platform’s user feedback forum asking for a mask mandate. That post got significant traction again this week, and as of Thursday had nearly 4,000 votes. In wake of the storm, Twitch remains silent. 

Twitch did not require a mask nor vaccination for TwitchCon Amsterdam, its European leg of the event, which took place on July 16-17. Its California event is much bigger, with more than 28,000 attendees in 2019, the last time the event took place, prior to the pandemic.

In addition to the lack of a mask and vaccine mandate, prices for the event increased by $30 from 2019 for all three tiers of tickets.

One More Thing — California Judge: Prove It, Activision Blizzard

On Thursday, a California judge ordered Activision Blizzard to turn over its pay equity study in the lawsuit that saw the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) accuse the company of gender discrimination in July 2021. 

The Santa Monica, Calif.-based game developer has fought to withhold the record in discovery from the DFEH, while simultaneously denying many of the DFEH’s allegations against the company, including that it had systematic gender-based pay disparities. The decision from the court forcing Activision Blizzard to hand over the pay equity study was first noticed by Kotaku’s Ethan Gach

Activision Blizzard has been under constant fire over the past year amid allegations of management allowing for sexual misconduct in the workplace to occur and for discriminating against female employees. 

Regulators, including the DFEH and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, have brought legal actions. Current and former employees have spoken on the record about their negative experiences. And state officials, such as New York State comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, have urged shareholders to call for a thorough study from the company regarding sexual abuse. The resolution from DiNapoli passed in June.

The company has not issued a statement regarding the California judge’s decision to force its hand. 

The original allegation made by the DFEH stated that issues in pay disparity for women began at hiring and included lower base compensation and less-lucrative job opportunities. According to the DFEH, women working at Activision Blizzard were also offered fewer stock options and received smaller raises during their time at the company.

Elsewhere in Gaming & Esports

The channel of the most valuable esports organization in the world got hacked on Wednesday and was promptly removed from YouTube. With 2.32 million subscribers and ranked as a top-1,000 U.S. channel on the platform, TSM’s offering was taken down after a hacker uploaded a pirated UFC event. The hack reportedly came from a cryptocurrency scammer, a somewhat ironic turn for the team with the largest cryptocurrency sponsorship deal in esports.

📈 “Tencent seeks bigger stake in 'Assassin's Creed' maker Ubisoft” (Julie Zhu & Selena Li / Reuters)

The Chinese megacorporation sent Ubisoft stock flying this week with a report from Zhu and Li that it’s looking to increase its stake in the Canadian game developer. The news also comes on the heels, albeit likely unrelated, of Tencent hiring ousted Ubisoft developer Ashraf Ismail, whom the dev fired in summer 2020 amid an investigation into alleged sexual misconduct. That news was first reported by Axios’ Stephen Totilo.