Famous video game company, Blizzard Entertainment, has broken its silence after it placed a controversial ban on one of its players that expressed his political stance over the Hong Kong-China feud, which inspired an online protest from its fanbase who called for a boycott.
Blizzard initially applied a one-year suspension to Ng “Blitzchung” Wai Chung after he shouted the protest slogan “Liberate Hong Kong, the revolution of our times!” during one of his post-game interviews.
Blizzard explained Friday in a lengthy statement that it will reduce the one-year suspension of player Ng “Blitzchung” Wai Chung to a six-month one, and it will restore the prize money it withheld from the disqualified Hearthstone player.
The video game company insisted that the initial decision was not influenced by the Chinese government, but rather due to violations made.
“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,” writes J. Allen Brack, the president of Blizzard Entertainment.
“We have these rules to keep the focus on the game and on the tournament to the benefit of a global audience, and that was the only consideration in the actions we took. If this had been the opposing viewpoint delivered in the same divisive and deliberate way, we would have felt and acted the same,” he continues.
In particular, anything that brings a player into “public disrepute,” offends the public, or damages Blizzard’s image would lead to a ban and loss of prize money, according to the competition rules. Likewise, if a player had shouted a pro-Beijing slogan, they would also be dealt with the same way.
However, with the backdrop of the months-long Hong Kong protests against China’s call for unification and the latest reports regarding the Communist country’s demand for subservience from international businesses, fans were quick to condemn Blizzard’s decision.
Gamers have accused Blizzard of appeasing China within the five days that it took the company to release a statement. In response to the disqualification, some fans called for boycotts. Others drew fan art or made memes of a Chinese character within the Blizzard-owned video game “Overwatch,” recasting her as a Hong Kong protester in a bid to get that game banned in China. On Tuesday, a small group of employees walked out of Irvine, California, headquarters in protest.
On Friday, Blizzard finally addressed the issue. “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,” Brack wrote.
Ng responded to Blizzard’s decision in a Twitch live stream Saturday morning. “I’m grateful to Blizzard for reconsidering my ban,” he said. “I think half a year [ban] is still pretty long. It’s still quite a loss to me, as an esports player.”
The suspended gamer added that he was aware that airing political views on the broadcast was against the rules, he did so anyway because he wanted to shine a light on the Hong Kong protests.
The money is “not important,” he said. “If I really cared about money, I wouldn’t have said anything on the stream during my interview.”
Beijing has taken a hard line on some global companies and brands. Recently, it pulled NBA preseason games off the air after Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey tweeted in support of Hong Kong. Apple took down an app used by Hong Kong protesters this week. Tim Cook, the company’s CEO, said it was being used to target the police.