Blizzard finally addresses Hong Kong esports fiasco, reducing bans and reinstating prize money

In his non-apology, Brack claims the decision had nothing to do with China, but the evidence says otherwise.

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All week, we’ve been covering the absolute chaos surrounding the punishment of pro Hearthstone esports player Ng “blitzchung” Wai Chung, whom Blizzard banned along with two Taiwanese commentators earlier this week over a pro-Hong Kong protest during a post-match interview in Taiwan. Blizzard also clawed back $10K in tournament winnings from Ng, citing vague tournament rules that essentially allow the studio to bar anyone from competition for any reason. The move sparked new protests and resignations from other pro teams and casters, condemnation from politicians left and right, coverage from mainstream news, account deletions and de-subs boycotts from players, and anguish from its own employees, who said the company’s internal policy all week has been as absent as any message to its players around the globe.

Now, Blizzard has finally broken its silence.

Blizzard Entertainment President J. Allen Brack posted a missive tonight (yes, very late on a Friday night, which is when you post news you want to bury, not news you’re proud of) arguing that Blizzard still stands by its values and insisting that in fact the company was merely enforcing its rules, that “the specific views expressed by blitzchung were NOT a factor in the decision [Blizzard] made,” and that “relationships in China had no influence on [that] decision.” However, he admits, “In hindsight, our process wasn’t adequate, and we reacted too quickly.”

“In the tournament itself blitzchung *played* fair. We now believe he should receive his prizing. We understand that for some this is not about the prize, and perhaps for others it is disrespectful to even discuss it. That is not our intention. But playing fair also includes appropriate pre-and post-match conduct, especially when a player accepts recognition for winning in a broadcast. When we think about the suspension, six months for blitzchung is more appropriate, after which time he can compete in the Hearthstone pro circuit again if he so chooses. There is a consequence for taking the conversation away from the purpose of the event and disrupting or derailing the broadcast. With regard to the casters, remember their purpose is to keep the event focused on the tournament. That didn’t happen here, and we are setting their suspension to six months as well. Moving forward, we will continue to apply tournament rules to ensure our official broadcasts remain focused on the game and are not a platform for divisive social or political views.”

“One of our goals at Blizzard is to make sure that every player, everywhere in the world, regardless of political views, religious beliefs, race, gender, or any other consideration always feels safe and welcome both competing in and playing our games,” Brack concludes. It is not clear how Ng’s protest did otherwise.

We recommend everyone read the whole letter, as Brack – or whoever actually wrote this – spends quite a bit of effort defending Blizzard’s original decisions, and he doesn’t actually apologize to Ng, the casters, or the playerbase.

The #boycottblizzard hashtag on Twitter, which had slowed down by this afternoon, has now taken off again.

Source: Blizzard
Our complete coverage of this week’s mess is here:
Update 9:00 PM EDT
As unimpressed Hearthstone Redditors point out, Brack didn’t address the Weibo post made by Blizzard in China earlier this week, which stated the company’s “strong indignation and condemnation of the events in the Hearthstone Asia-Pacific competition” and vowed to “as always, resolutely safeguard national dignity” – or “firmly defend China’s honor,” depending on the translation. (Rod Breslau has a really good one if you want to read the whole thing.)

The letter also doesn’t address the bizarre circumstances under which the casters were allegedly originally dismissed or even explain what it is they did to violate their contracts.

And of course, as we reported earlier, an American University Hearthstone esports team protested against Blizzard with pro-Hong Kong signs during a match earlier this week and was not punished in accordance with the policies Brack just told everyone had nothing to do with China and everything to do with rule-abiding, leading the entire team to forfeit the rest of the season over Blizzard’s hypocrisy.

Update 11:50 PM EDT
For clarity’s sake:

Update 10/12/2019 12:00 PM EDT
Ng himself posted a response this morning – here is his English version:

Thank you for your attention in the past one week, this is a personal statement and my view on Blizzard’s latest decision. First of all, I’m grateful for Blizzard reconsidering their position about my ban. Earlier this week, I told media that I knew I might have penalty or consequence for my act, because I understand that my act could take the conversation away from the purpose of the event. In the future, I will be more careful on that and express my opinions or show my support to Hong Kong on my personal platforms.

Many people has been asking me if I accept the latest decision of Blizzard, I will discuss that on two parts. Tournament prizing and suspension. For tournament prizing, I quoted what Blizzard said on the official website, they mention that I played fair in the tournament and they believe I should receive my prizing. This is the part I really appreciate, Blizzard also said they understand for some this is not about the prize, but perhaps for others it is disrespectful to even discuss it. People
from Blizzard had explained this to me through a phone call and I really appreciate that and I accept their decision on this part.

For second part about the suspension, Blizzard had changed their suspension on me from a year to six months. Once again, I appreciate for their reconsideration on this. To be honest, I think six
months is still quite a lot to me. But I also being told that I can continue to compete in the hearthstone pro circuit which they mean the grandmaster tournament. I appreciate for this decision
they made because grandmaster is currently the highest level tournament in competitive
hearthstone. However, I wish Blizzard can reconsider about their penalty on the two casters involved.

Lastly, many people wants to know if i would be competing in hearthstone in the future. Honestly, I have no idea on that yet. Since my next tournament is very likely to be the grandmaster tournament of next season, it’s probably at least a few months from now on. I will take this time to relax myself to decide if I am staying in competitive hearthstone scene or not.

Hearthstone changed my the way I live, I really love this community. Blessing to all the players out there, and blessing to Blizzard.

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