O Overwatch Anniversary Remix (opens in new tab) The event kicked off yesterday with in-game rewards, including a variety of fan-favorite skins. But users on Reddit and the Blizzard forums quickly noticed that at least some of them were subtly changed: the “Z” that was previously on Zarya’s Arctic (opens in new tab) and Siberian Front (opens in new tab) skins no longer exists.
OZ is clearly a monogram of Zarya, but more recently it has gained infamy as the symbol used by Russian forces invading Ukraine. The letter does not actually exist in the Cyrillic alphabet, leading to speculation that it is an Anglicized abbreviation of the Russian word for “West”, or a phrase meaning “to victory”. In any case, it was also adopted by segments of the Russian public as a symbol of their support for the war.
In Russia, the letter Z has become a pro-war symbol of President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. It was first seen on tanks and military vehicles, but now appears to be gaining support from Russian civilians. @PhilBlackCNN has the story. pic.twitter.com/MZNMlCIJdQMarch 8, 2022
Blizzard has yet to comment on the removal, but it seems almost impossible that the change could have been made for any other reason. Zarya—full name Aleksandra Zaryanova—was a Russian soldier before joining Overwatch, and regardless of the original intent, the presence of that “Z” on her uniform is incredibly inappropriate now.
Despite Blizzard’s silence, there’s no mistaking the change – as you can see in these before-and-after photos shared by ProtoVI at reddit (opens in new tab)the Z is clearly gone:
It’s an unusual move, but not unprecedented: Blizzard has modified Tracer’s victory pose (opens in new tab) after fans complained that the original design was oversexualized and stopped releasing exclusive skins based on Overwatch League MVPs after 2019 winner Jay “Sinatraa” Won was accused of sexual assault (opens in new tab) by an ex-girlfriend.
I’ve reached out to Blizzard to comment on the change and will update if I get a response.