Activision Blizzard is no stranger to the gaming industry. Even before Blizzard was under Activision, it was already a mammoth company. Blizzard Entertainment is responsible for many established video game titles: Warcraft, Diablo, World of Warcraft, StarCraft, Overwatch, and Hearthstone.
But nobody expected how a casual-friendly card game like Hearthstone could damage their reputation. A hasty decision made headlines all over the world — leading many to question Blizzard’s true goals. How did this happen? What steps have Activision Blizzard taken since the public outrage?
An Outright Ban — Plus Collateral Damage
The 6th of October 2019 would go down in history as one of Blizzard’s worst says. But here’s the thing: It’s their fault. That day, esports professional Ng Wai Chung won the Hearthstone Grandmasters event in Taiwan. His in-game name is “Blitzchung” and he lives in Hong Kong.
So what went wrong? During his post-match champion interview, Chung did two things. First, he wore a mask reminiscent of what the Hong Kong protesters wore. Then, before the interview ended, he said: “Liberate Hong Kong, the revolution of our times.” It was the slogan of the pro-democracy HK protests.
Right after that, organizers cut the stream. The unthinkable happened the next day. Blizzard took away Chung’s entire prize money — all $4,000 of it. The company also banned him from Hearthstone for a whole year. If that wasn’t bad enough, they fired the two casters who were just interviewing Blitzchung.
Blizzard in the Wrong Side of History
Are Blizzard hypocrites? Pretty much. Their mission statement is literally “Every Voice Matters”. If that’s true, why would they allow such a punishment for Chung? He was a Hong Kong resident who’s rightfully angry Carrie Lang and the respective governments of China and Hong Kong.
In other words, Blitzchung was fighting for what Blizzard supposedly upholds. Blizzard’s repressive action highlights their hypocrisy. Does every voice matter to them if it affects their presence in China? Let’s not forget how Blizzard ridiculed fans with the announcement of a mobile Diablo game last year.
We’re at a time when China’s bullying countries. They persuade them into accepting debt traps. Likewise, China is aggressively militarizing many regions — even those in disputed territorial areas.
Blizzard could’ve just said that Chung’s views do not reflect theirs. But they took the extreme approach to appease China. Their response was so bad even their employees protested at the headquarters.
A Lackluster Apology at BlizzCon
Many things have happened since then. Twitch users flooded the chat section with pro-Hong Kong posts. Illustrators made fan art of Blizzard video game characters protesting against China. Many Blizzard fans also deleted their accounts or at least canceled their in-game purchases.
Several weeks later, BlizzCon took place. Protesters gathered right outside the event venue. At BlizzCon, Blizzard president J. Allen Brack went on stage to apologize to everyone — but it was an empty speech. He said that the company didn’t live up to its standards. And he was willing to accept accountability.
Yet his speech was not only short — it was also lacking sincerity. Not once did he mention Chung, Hong Kong, or China. It was as if they were taboo words that would get him in deep trouble.
Plus, they didn’t reverse their decisions on BlitzChung and the two casters. In the end, Blizzard did the bare minimum to address such an important topic in these chaotic times.