Technology

Blizzard Faces Wide Backlash Over Hong Kong ‘Hearthstone’ Ban


Update: In a hot piece of end of Friday news Blizzard officially responded to the controversy. You can read the lengthy attempt at spin on their blog, but long story short Blitzchung is getting his money back and everyone’s bans are being reduced to six months. People don’t like that this still implies calling for Democracy in Hong Kong is somehow wrong. Blizzard also insists China had nothing to do with the decision. People are buying it.

If Blizzard thought swiftly banning a professional Hearthstone player Blitzchung over his pro-Hong Kong protest remarks would make the problem go away instead of amplifying it, someone should introduce them about Barbara Streisand. While trying to appease the authoritarian China’s government and its lucrative markets, Activision wound up sparking an industry-wide backlash that’s still ongoing.

Tim Sweeney of Epic Games, the company behind Fortnite, said that despite the significant stake Chinese company Tencent has in the developer, he would use his final say as majority shareholder to ensure players aren’t punished for this kind of expression. He then burned up a lot of that goodwill by offering to talk a hate site. However, Riot Games, the folks behind League of Legends who are straight-up owned by Tencent, is telling its esports partners to please keep politics out of broadcasts.

Blizzard didn’t just ban the troublesome player. It also cut ties with the casters on air during the protest, despite them ducking from the frame. In solidarity, multiple Hearthstone casters and fans are boycotting the company.

Politicians have criticized Blizzard’s decision. But these are mostly disingenuous Republicans looking to score points against communists, not protect Hong Kong democracy. The same goes for sleazy GamerGate types like Mark Kern also riding the boycott train.

Overwatch launches on the Nintendo Switch soon. And just in time anonymous artists have been turning Chinese character Mei into a mascot for Hong Kong democracy advocacy.

At Blizzard’s headquarters, several employees expressed their displeasure by staging a walkout. They covered up corporate signs that said “every voice matters” and “think globally” to criticize the company’s hypocrisy.

And while it’s not exactly related, we can’t imagine staffers (who recently went through a brutal round of layoffs) will be pleased to learn that Activision-Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick is the latest gross rich jerk potentially linked to assassinated billionaire pedophile human trafficker Jeffrey Epstein.

This international incident over a digital card game isn’t going away soon. And with BlizzCon coming up, last year’s “controversy” of Diablo Immortal is going to look positively quaint by comparison. It serves Blizzard right, though. Political freedom is more important than profits.

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