After days of silence, Blizzard has responded to the anger and controversy over its punishments of a Hearthstone player and two casters. The response comes via an open letter from Blizzard president J. Allen Brack, which also reduced punishments for all three.
Everything started last Sunday when professional Hearthstone player Ng Wai “Blitzchung” Chung made post-victory comments after a match in the Grandmasters tournament supporting the Hong Kong protests. Blizzard responded with harsh punishments, removing all of his past winnings in the tournament and suspending him for a year. Blizzard also noted that it would no longer work with the two casters who were interviewing Blitzchung at the time.
Brack announced that Blitzchung will now get to keep his winnings. His suspension is also reduced to six months. The two casters are also now suspended for six months. But Brack made it clear that Blitzchung did violate its rules.
Every Voice Matters, and we strongly encourage everyone in our community to share their viewpoints in the many places available to express themselves. However, the official broadcast needs to be about the tournament and to be a place where all are welcome. In support of that, we want to keep the official channels focused on the game.
Brack also disputed accusations that Blizzard gave out the initial punishment as a way to appease China, a country that makes up a sizable chunk of its revenues.
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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.
Blizzard’s response took days to come, and even then it was only released late on a Friday. While Blizzard is reducing penalties, the statement isn’t necessarily an apology. It emphasizes that its tournaments should not be a place for political discourse. As for what counts as being political, that is up to Blizzard’s discretion.
But Brack does say that Blizzard could have handled the situation better.
Over the past few days, many players, casters, esports fans, and employees have expressed concerns about how we determined the penalties. We’ve had a chance to pause, to listen to our community, and to reflect on what we could have done better. In hindsight, our process wasn’t adequate, and we reacted too quickly.
While Blizzard was quiet for most of the week, just about everyone else reacted, including the mainstream press. Blizzard is starting its annual BlizzCon event on November 1 in Anaheim, California. The last thing the company wants is for this controversy to overshadow its announcements at the show. It remains to be seen if this statement will be enough to calm angry fans.
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