Blizzard is facing backlash from consumers angry that the company banned Hearthstone eSports champion Ng Wai “blitzchung” Chung, a native of Hong Kong, for making comments in favor of the pro-democracy protests in the city.
After expressing his support for the pro-democracy protests sweeping Hong Kong, Chung was banned by the multi-billion dollar entertainment company under a nebulous catch-all conduct policy that reads:
Engaging in any act that, in Blizzard’s sole discretion, brings you into public disrepute, offends a portion or group of the public, or otherwise damages Blizzard image will result in removal from Grandmasters and reduction of the player’s prize total to $0 USD, in addition to other remedies which may be provided for under the Handbook and Blizzard’s Website Terms.
Chung spoke to the official Taiwanese Hearthstone organization wearing a gas mask in protest after his victory against South Korea’s Jang “DawN” Hyun Jae.
As soon as he was on camera, he proclaimed: “Liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our age!” The camera was immediately cut, the casters attempted to distance themselves, and videos of the match itself have been removed. Blizzard also fired both casters for good measure.
In an official blog post, Blizzard said:
Grandmasters is the highest tier of Hearthstone Esports and we take tournament rule violations very seriously. After an investigation, we are taking the necessary actions to prevent similar incidents from happening in the future.
It is important to note that Blizzard is partly owned by the monolithic Chinese multinational conglomerate, Tencent Holdings Limited. Today, Tencent also announced a suspension of their ties with the National Basketball Association, after Houston Rockets’ General Manager tweeted support for the Hong Kong protesters.
Just like the NBA, Blizzard is facing a pervasive negative response from the public. Customers are boycotting the company, and declaring their support for Chung and the pro-democracy demonstrators through the #BoycottBlizzard hashtag — including numerous posted screenshots showing Blizzard products deleted from their personal computers.
The response has been so intense that Blizzard has even shut down r/Blizzard, the company’s official fan subreddit, in an attempt to silence the overwhelming criticism. Meanwhile, fellow online card game “Gods Unchained” has decided to express their support for Chung by paying out all of his lost winnings:
.@Blizzard_Ent just banned @blitzchungHS and stripped his Hearthstone winnings because they care about money more than freedom. We will pay for ALL his lost winnings and a ticket to our $500k tournament: no player should be punished for their beliefs. #freegaming https://t.co/ONvtkG4x9G
— Gods Unchained (@GodsUnchained) October 8, 2019
“@Blizzard_Ent just banned @blitzchungHS and stripped his Hearthstone winnings because they care about money more than freedom,” they tweeted early this morning. “We will pay for ALL his lost winnings and a ticket to our $500k tournament: no player should be punished for their beliefs. #freegaming”
Even Blizzard’s employees may be feeling the heat. Unconfirmed reports claim that “incensed” employees have covered up the “Think Globally” and “Every Voice Matters” values from the company’s corporate display.
Without any real chance of a South Park style “apology” from the communist corporate overlords, Blizzard is betting on silence being their best chance of escape…