Courtesy of Blizzard Twitter
In the past month, the American game company Blizzard Entertainment has found itself in the midst of controversy. The company banned a professional player, known by his handle “Blitzchung,” from tournament participation after he expressed his support for the Hong Kong protests.
On an October 5th live stream, professional Hearthstone player Ng “Blitzchung” Wai Chung made the exclamation, “Liberate Hong Kong. Revolution of our times!” Shortly following this occurrence, Blizzard Entertainment banned Blitzchung from participating in the ongoing Hearthstone Grandmasters tournament and any other tournaments following it.
The issued ban was intended to last for a year and the prize money that Blitzchung could have won was revoked. According to The Verge, Blizzard also ended its contract with the two interviewers that spoke to Blitzchung at the time of the live stream.
After Blitzchung made the statement, the interviewers attempted to hide their faces. Some accounts report that the interviewers were encouraging Blitzchung’s comments.
The ban was met with immense backlash from social media users and Blizzard employees alike. Some professional players even took further action to let their voices be heard. Three collegiate players, Casey Chambers, Corwin Dark, and TJammer were banned from league participation for six months after voicing their support for Hong Kong. During a Hearthstone broadcast, they held up a sign that read “Free Hong Kong, boycott Blizz.”
Players refused to buy Blizzard’s games or pay for microtransactions and subscriptions, most notably for its highly profitable games like World of Warcraft and Overwatch. Blizzard employees walked out of work and even covered two of the metal plates that describe Blizzard’s core values. Kevin Hovdestad, a former Blizzard employee, tweeted “Both the ‘Think Globally’ and ‘Every Voice Matters’ values have been covered up by incensed employees this morning.”
On top of criticism from players and employees, Blizzard has also lost one of its sponsors. Mitsubishi Motors Taiwan bailed two days after the controversy, and neither company has made any further comments on the situation.
Blizzard Entertainment posted a clarifying statement online regarding Blitzchung’s ban. They claimed that their response to the situation had no relation to China, though many online users believe that Blizzard has, in fact, succumbed to China’s anti-Hong Kong standpoint.
The Internet further criticized Blizzard due to the nature of their response and made points that there was no indication of an apology in their statement.
Blitzchung himself responded to the ban and reported that he was not surprised by the results. “It is what I expected to happen,” he said on a Twitch live stream.
The company has since reduced Blitzchung’s ban to six months instead of twelve and returned any prize money that was revoked previously. The interviewers’ contract termination has also been reduced to six months.
Following this controversy, many people—players, employees, and sponsors alike—are willing to show their support for the Hong Kong protests through social media and have since given positive words to Blitzchung and those involved in the ban.