Following international outcry over their punishment of player Ng Wai Chung ‘Blitzchung’, Blizzard have confirmed that they will rescind at least some of the punishment that they meted out to the player, following Chung’s pro-democracy statement in a Hearthstone Grandmasters tournament post-game interview.
After initially withholding the players prize money and banning him for a year, Blizzard have since confirmed in a statement that they would reduce the ban to six months and that they would allow Blitzchung to retain the money he has already won as part of the Grandmasters event.
“We’ve had a chance to pause, to listen to our community, and to reflect on what we could have done better,” said Blizzard’s president J.Allen Brack in the company’s statement that was issued on Friday.
The president also stated
“In hindsight, our process wasn’t adequate, and we reacted too quickly”.
Climbdown after Furious Response
This rather humiliating climbdown from Activision-Blizzard comes on the back of a furious response by many within the Blizzard community and across the wider esports community too. This included a number of star names and key influencers within esports, who had supported a boycott of Blizzard games and businesses.
This led to the hashtag #BoycottBlizzard trending worldwide last week.
Blizzard were accused of siding with China, who are being accused of meddling in the democratic processes in Hong Kong and who are at the heart of the protests being staged within the territory.
Protests in Hong Kong have been going on for months at. China’s perceived stripping away of Hong Kong’s civil rights and freedoms, which were supposed to have been guaranteed when China took over control of the territory from the U.K. in 1997.
Blizzard’s Chinese Links
Critics pointed out that Blizzard are actively trying to engage with the Chinese market, a huge gaming market for esports and games in general, and that a Chinese company, Ten Cent, had a 5% stake in the company.
The company is also working with Chinese authorities to try and ensure its recent mobile released Call of Duty Mobile is available to the massive Chinese market.
Many took to Twitter to point out Blizzard’s vested interests in the Chinese market and accused the company of double standards and of tacitly endorsing Chinese heavy-handed approach to the protests in Hong Kong, by punishing Blitzchung in such a heavy handed fashion.
However, in the lengthy statement issued on Friday, Blizzard stated that their dealings in China played no part in the decision to punish Blitzchung so severely.
“I want to be clear: Our relationships in China had no influence on our decision.
“If this had been the opposing viewpoint delivered in the same divisive and deliberate way, we would have felt and acted the same,” read the statement.
Following the announcement Blitzchung issued his own personal statement in which he said he was “grateful for Blizzard reconsidering its position” and that he was pleaed the company recognised he “played fair in the tournament’ and returned his winnings.
However, Blitzchung still maintains that the six-month ban is still too punitive but did state
“I will be more careful on that and express my opinions or show my support to Hong Kong on my personal platforms.”