Blizzard is finally weighing in on the controversy created in the past week when a professional tournament player of Hearthstone was suspended and had his prize money taken away for making a supportive comment on behalf of the Hong Kong pro-democracy protesters.
The player, Chung Ng Wai, was suspended for a year and had $10,000 taken away for him. The two casters who were conducting the interview in which Chung made the remarks were also fired.
Now Blizzard is modifying the punishment somewhat, changing the year suspension of Chung to six months and giving him back the prize money. They are also changing the firing of the casters to a 6 month suspension.
Blizzard made people aware of the change in a lengthy statement.
From The Verge:
I want to be clear: our relationships in China had no influence on our decision,” writes J. Allen Brack, the president of Blizzard Entertainment.
“We have these rules to keep the focus on the game and on the tournament to the benefit of a global audience, and that was the only consideration in the actions we took. If this had been the opposing viewpoint delivered in the same divisive and deliberate way, we would have felt and acted the same,” he continues.
Yet Brack also says that, after evaluating the situation and listening to the community, “six months for blitzchung is more appropriate, after which time he can compete in the Hearthstone pro circuit again if he so chooses.” He goes on to say, “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.”
Brack continued, claiming they still believed in one of the company’s slogans: Every Voice Matters.
“Every Voice Matters, and we strongly encourage everyone in our community to share their viewpoints in the many places available to express themselves,” Brack writes. “However, the official broadcast needs to be about the tournament and to be a place where all are welcome. In support of that, we want to keep the official channels focused on the game.”
The problem with this statement was that immediately after the incident when people were commenting about it on their forums, they wiped out the posts of people who were critical of their actions and/or kowtowing to the Chinese. They left up the posts of those who agreed with them. At this point, very few people will believe that their actions are not related to their business relationships with the Chinese.
They’ve experienced a massive blowback, with players calling for a boycott and even employees walking out on them at their office in California. Even lawmakers have condemned their actions as anti-free speech and supporting a communist regime.
It’s unlikely this statement at this point, too little, too late, will convince people.