We had just talked about the apology that Blizzard’s President J. Allen Brack issued at the opening of Blizzcon this past week. In that apology, Brack accepts responsibility for “moving too quickly” in banning Blitzchung for his mild statements of support for the ongoing protests in Hong Kong and states that Blizzard hadn’t “lived up to the high standards” that Brack apparently expects out of the company. Notably absent from the apology was any reference to altering Blitzchung’s six month ban from competition, or any changes to other bans over Hong Kong speech the company had handed out.
And now Brack has explicitly stated in a recent interview that Blitzchung’s 6 month ban will stay in place, further calling into question what the point of his “apology” was at all.
In explaining that decision,Brack reiterated the message that Blizzard supports free speech and encourages employees and players to say what they want in “all kinds of ways and all kinds of places.” The one exception to that, he said, is “official broadcasts,” including Blizzard-sponsored esports events, which the company wants to be “focused on the games.”
“Again, it’s not about the content of Blitzchung’s message,”Brack said, echoing previous comments from Blizzard. “It’s about the fact that it was not around the games. If we hadn’t taken action, if we hadn’t done something, you can imagine the trail that would be in our future around doing interviews. They would become times for people to make a statement about whatever they wanted to, on whatever issue. That’s just a path that we don’t want to go down. We really want the content of those official broadcasts to be focused on the games, and keep that focus.”
Which lands us pretty much right back to Blizzard’s original policy. So what was the apology for? Simply banning too quickly? Banning for a year instead of six months? None of this addresses what people are actually angry about. Brack went on to state that Blizzard competitors were free to express their political thoughts outside of Blizzard stream, though there is evidence to the contrary.
Brack went on to make even more confusing statements suggesting that Chinese pressure had nothing to do with the ban due to Blizzard not really operating in the country, before then going on to say that they work in close concert with their Chinese broadcast partner.
Brack also reiterated in the interview that Chinese regulations and business pressure has nothing to do with the company’s decisions regarding Blitzchung. Though Hearthstone is available in China,Brack stressed that it was only through local publishing partner NetEase, and that Blizzard itself is “not legally allowed to operate or to publish games in China.”
Elsewhere in the interview, though, Brack says that Blizzard Taiwan, Hearthstone leadership, and Blizzard’s “esports team” were all “in conversation [with NetEase] around the issue.” Together, Brack said, those groups “acted very rapidly and we acted very quickly” in handing out Blitzchung’s initial ban, using an amount of haste that Brack now calls “the failure of this story.”
Very little is clear in any of this, save for the simple reality that Brack’s apology was corporate nonsense. If any of this was supposed to tamp down the fervent anger at Blizzard’s actions, I can’t imagine it working.