Blizzcon is the annual gaming convention thrown by Blizzard Entertainment to help promote its games including World of Warcraft, Diablo, Overwatch and Hearthstone.
But they are coming into the convention with many of their gamers up in arms because of how the company dealt with a gamer supporting the protests in Hong Kong last month.
A gamer at a Hearthstone tournament, Chung “Blitzchung” Ng Wai, expressed his support for the protesters during a streaming interview after he was being interviewed on his win.
Blizzard’s immediate response was to take back his $10,000 prize money and ban him for a year from play. They also banned the people who were interviewing him who they believed supported his statement. They later reduced that to a six months suspension for the gamer and the casters, and they gave the gamer back his prize money after they faced a huge backlash. They also continued to cut off any support for Hong Kong expressed at other tournaments.
Blizzard Entertainment has many connections to Chinese companies and people believed that this was behind the harsh reaction to the gamer’s remarks. People viewed Blizzard’s actions as suppressing free speech and kowtowing to the Chinese Communist government.
Protesters were out in force today at Blizzcon, some wearing “Free Hong Kong” t-shirts and others wearing “Mei” shirts which has become an emblem of the protest. Some even went all the way, wearing Winnie the Pooh costumes, taking a slap at Chinese President Xi Jinping, said to be very upset at the comparison that some made of him to the cartoon character. Protests were planned to run throughout the day
— Kotaku (@Kotaku) November 1, 2019
— AuraMistress (@AuraMistress) November 1, 2019
— Ethan Hawkes (@Ethanhawkes) November 1, 2019
— TechRaptor (@TechRaptr) November 1, 2019
Protest gearing up outside of Blizzcon pic.twitter.com/xOn012JFPf
— Jake Dekker (@jacobdekk) November 1, 2019
— Sal (@Summer_Sal) November 1, 2019
In opening remarks at the convention, Blizzard President J. Allen Brack delivered an apology for what had been done. Brack said they failed to “live up to their standards” and that they failed in their purpose. For that, he said he “accepted accountability.”
He said that their actions would speak louder than his words and he said that he hoped it was clear that people saw they were free to express themselves this weekend during the convention. He said, wryly, “I’ve actually heard and seen many of you expressing yourself this morning.” There was at least one Winnie the Pooh allowed into the convention, as well as multiple people in Hong Kong supportive T-shirts.
But some felt the apology fell short, not even mentioning Hong Kong, China, the specifics of the actions and leaving the suspensions in place.
Here is Blizzard President's awful apology in which he doesn't mention Blitzchung and the casters nor retract any of the punishments. https://t.co/0Vw7aFCMGT
— YongYea (@YongYea) November 1, 2019
Intentionally phrasing things so you dont make your stance apparent, to try and deceive your audience.
There is no apology here, other than for a scenario you just made up.
Either say sorry for obeying china, or say you're staying with them.
— Blair Pendragon (@BlairPendragon) November 1, 2019
They’re just sorry for losing a sponsor.pic.twitter.com/tWDXBQzKyn
— Nikki😷 (@nikki_miumiu) November 1, 2019
"We moved too quickly (to kneel down before the Totalitarianist) … and we were too slow (to pretend that we had never to so / pretend that we are regret)…" pic.twitter.com/907K8cYfvW
— Sakura (@SakuraCSara) November 1, 2019
Video of Blizzard's apology to Chin-, I mean, Blitzchung at Blizzcon today.https://t.co/BSqmmh3AZ2
— Valk | "I coulda been at a BBQ!" (@einherjarvalk) November 1, 2019
Some also noted that while the supposed “offense” was political speech during a tournament that Brack himself was wearing a “Blizzard Pride” pin as he gave his apology.
— PecTheMage (@PecTheMage) November 1, 2019