Blizzard Backlash

The massively successful game company Blizzard Entertainment seems to have been making a name for themselves this year—and that’s not in a good way.

On October 7th, the corporation recently banned Chung “Blitzchung” Ng Wai, a professional Hearthstone player, during a high-stakes Hearthstone tournament that was being hosted by Blizzard for expressing his political views.

During a post-game interview, Chung Ng Wai put on a mask similar to those that was seen in the Hong Kong protests and proceeded to say while on air: “Liberate Hong Kong. Revolution of our age!” The two announcers interviewing the player ducked at the statement and immediately went to a commercial break.

The response from Blizzard was swift at this move; only taking action just a few hours after the event was broadcasted live on Twitch. Blitzchung was banned for playing Hearthstone for a year as well as losing all of his earnings within the tournament. The company also decided to suspend the announcers that were interviewing Blitzchung, although the reasons for this are yet to be known.

Despite Blitzchung’s ban, his statement seems to have made a much larger impact than it could have ever hoped for. Since the statement, Blizzard has constantly been under pressure for requests to unban him. Many people across the world are cancelling their BattleNet accounts, and Blizzard’s stock is evidently tanking. Alongside this, many former Blizzard fans are scrapping their games and/or merchandise and accusing the company of “Giving in to Chinese censorship.”

As for the Hong Kong protests, some users on Reddit have taken the liberty of using an ethnically Chinese character from Blizzard’s massively successful game Overwatch and turning her into a figurehead for the protests.

For a while, Blizzard seemed that they were going to remain silent on this matter; as per the usual—the company has had a reputation of simply letting controversy fly under their radar despite public outcry.

However, on Friday, October 12th, Blizzard released an official statement with no forewarning about the overall situation. In short, their statement reads: “The specific views expressed by Blitzchung were NOT a factor in the decision we made. I want to be clear: our relationships in China had no influence on our decision.” The statement also concludes that Blitzchung’s ban will be halved to six months alongside the casters, and he will now be able to receive his prize money from the tournament.

After the statement, Blitzchung himself responded in a blog post and thanked Blizzard for their reconsideration of his suspension, although he did mention that they should also reconsider the terms of the announcer’s suspensions.

This does not mean that Blizzard is out of hot water by any means though. If anything, their situation has gotten worse. Many people on twitter and even Reddit have started the ‘Boycott Blizzard’ trend which has led to even more backlash towards their company. And with internal struggles running high such as staff members walking out to them simply quitting their jobs, who’s to say what’s to come for the near future.