After a week of outrage and protests over the punishment of a Hearthstone player expressing his views on Hong Kong in an after-game interview, Blizzard has finally made a statement that amounts to a partial backlash affecting his decision.
The statement, which was released late Friday, is attributed to Blizzard President J. Allen Brack. He insisted that Hearthstone player Chung "Lightning" Ng Wai from Hong Kong, in question, violated the tournament rules by commenting on the current situation in his home country.
Earlier this week, Blitzchung appeared in an interview after the game of Grandmasters in the Asia-Pacific, in which he signed off with a bold statement. Blitzchung wore a similar gas mask as the demonstrators (recently banned in Hong Kong) and said, "Free Hong Kong, revolution of our time!" The stream came quickly to an advertising break.
[BREAKING] Hong Kong Hearthstone player @blitzchungHS calls in the interview after the game, the liberation of his country: https://t.co/3AgQAaPioj
-? Inven Global? (@InvenGlobal) October 6, 2019
All three streamers were punished by Blizzard, including the two casters. Blitzchung was removed by the Grand Masters, lost all his prize money, and was suspended for one year.
This punishment was viewed by Blizzard as stubborn and an attack on freedom of expression. It sparked outcry both inside and outside the company, with the BoycottBlizzard hashtag trend on Twitter and staff holding protests next to an Orc statue surrounded by company slogans. One of these slogans, "Every Voice Matters", was hushed up by employees.
Not everyone at Blizzard agrees with what happened.
Both the values "Think Global" and "Every Voice Matters" were hushed up by angry employees this morning. pic.twitter.com/I7nAYUes6Q
– Kevin Hovdestad (@ lacofofrealism) October 8, 2019
"Each voice is important, and we strongly encourage everyone in our community to share their views in the many places where they can express themselves," the Blizzard statement said.
"However, the official show has to deal with the tournament and be a place everyone is welcome in. To support this, we want to keep the official channels focused on the game."
Blizzard's initial decision was seen by many as an attempt to appease the Chinese market, which is critical to the company's success. But Blizzard insisted it had nothing to do with his relationships in China. "The specific views expressed by Lightning were NOT a factor in the decision we made," said J. Allen Brack.
"I want to make it clear that our relationships in China did not affect our decision.
"We have these rules to focus on the game and the tournament for the benefit of a global audience, and that was the only consideration in the action we took.
"If this had been the opposite viewpoint, which would have been advocated in the same divisive and deliberate manner, we would have felt and acted the same."
Blizzard has now reduced the penalty for flashback, and J. Allen Brack admitted that the company had responded too quickly. Blitzchung now receives his prize money and his one-year ban is only six months.
"We understand that for some it's not about the price, and for others it may be disrespectful to discuss it," continued J. Allen Brack. "That's not our intention.
"There is a consequence if the conversation deviates from the purpose of the event and disturbs or disturbs the transmission."
The ban on foundry was shortened to six months. "As for the casters, they should remember that their goal is to focus the event on the tournament," said J. Allen Brack. "That did not happen here, and we also set her suspension to six months."