Despite an on-stage apology from Blizzard CEO J. Allen Brack, much of Blizzard’s annual expo, BlizzCon, was overshadowed by protests about the company’s decision to suspend a Hearthstone player for supporting for the Hong Kong protests during a livestream event.
Although it initially banned Chung “Blitzchung” Ng Wai from online tournaments for a year, the company later reduced the player’s suspension from 12 to six months. However, the reduction wasn’t enough to satisfy many pro-free speech fans critical of the ban, which meant much of BlizzCon was overshadowed by protests outside the event.
Many in the community have accused Blizzard of giving into Chinese censorship, though the company denies that their business interests in China had any impact on their decision.
“Blizzard had the opportunity to bring the world together in a tough Hearthstone esports moment a month ago, and we did not,” Brack said. “We moved too quickly in our decision-making, and to make matters worse we were too slow to talk to all of you. When I think about what I’m most unhappy about it was two things – first, we didn’t live up to the high standards we set ourselves and the second, we failed in our purpose. For that I accept responsibility and I am sorry.
“So what exactly is our purpose? BlizzCon is demonstrating it even as we speak. We aspire to bring the world together in epic entertainment, and I truly believe in the positive power of the video game. When we get it right, we create a common ground where the community comes together. To compete, connect and play. As an example, BlizzCon has people from 59 countries at the show today – and that is amazing, is the positive power of video games.”
The protests about the ban also resulted in Blizzard making a last-minute decision to pull out of its planned event at Nintendo World. The event was intended to celebrate the launch of Overwatch on the Nintendo Switch, and the company had planned a meet and greet with some of the game’s voice actors for the first 150 fans to sign up for the event, which was cancelled just a day before it was due to take place, with no explanation.