Blizzard removes pro-Russia war symbol from Zarya skins in Overwatch

(Image credit: Blizzard)

The Overwatch Anniversary Remix event kicked off yesterday with in-game rewards including a range of fan-favorite skins. But users on Reddit and the Blizzard forums quickly noticed that at least a couple of them have been subtly altered: The "Z" that was previously on Zarya's Arctic and Siberian Front skins is no longer there.

The Z is clearly a Zarya monogram, but more recently it's gained infamy as the symbol used by Russian forces invading Ukraine. The letter doesn't actually exist in the Cyrillic alphabet, leading to speculation that it's an anglicized abbreviation of the Russian word for "West," or a phrase meaning "for victory." Either way, it's also been adopted by segments of the Russian public as a symbol of their support for the war.

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Blizzard hasn't yet commented 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 prior to joining Overwatch, and regardless of 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 pictures shared by ProtoVI on Reddit, the Z is clearly gone:

It's an unusual but not unprecedented move: Blizzard has previously modified Tracer's victory pose after fans complained the original design was oversexualized, and stopped releasing unique skins based on Overwatch League MVPs after 2019 winner Jay "Sinatraa" Won was accused of sexual assault by an ex-girlfriend. 

I've reached out to Blizzard for comment on the change, and will update if I receive a reply.

Andy Chalk

Andy has been gaming on PCs from the very beginning, starting as a youngster with text adventures and primitive action games on a cassette-based TRS80. From there he graduated to the glory days of Sierra Online adventures and Microprose sims, ran a local BBS, learned how to build PCs, and developed a longstanding love of RPGs, immersive sims, and shooters. He began writing videogame news in 2007 for The Escapist and somehow managed to avoid getting fired until 2014, when he joined the storied ranks of PC Gamer. He covers all aspects of the industry, from new game announcements and patch notes to legal disputes, Twitch beefs, esports, and Henry Cavill. Lots of Henry Cavill.