Blizzard issues statement on blitzchung, reduces punishment

One week after suspending pro Hearthstone player blitzchung for speaking out on behalf of Hong Kong, Blizzard's J. Allen Brack finally issued a statement and announced that the APAC player's suspension would be reduced and his prize money returned.

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This has been a very long, miserable, no-good week for Blizzard Entertainment. Anyone who follows gaming even tangentially should know the story by now. Pro Hearthstone player blitzchung jumped onto a postgame interview, expressed his support for the people of Hong Kong, and was subsequently suspended with all of his prize money revoked. It was a move that many saw as Blizzard bowing down to pressure from China, valuing Chinese money over human rights and over their own customer values. Revolts have ensued, from numerous players uninstalling their Blizzard games to their own employees staging their own forms of protests. After this week that seemingly wouldn't end, Blizzard has finally issued a response.

In a lengthy statement issued to the Blizzard website, Blizzard Entertainment President J. Allen Brack announced that blitzchung's suspension would be cut in half. The publisher is also reversing course on his prize money, with Brack stating that blitzchung would receive all of his prize money that had been revoked in the wake of last weekend's events.

Blitzchung
Pro Hearthstone player blitzchung

The blitzchung story has been the biggest gaming news of the week and the fallout has been felt widely throughout Blizzard. Employees in the Irvine office protested by covering up the "Think Globally" and "Every Voice Matters" plaques on the campus statues, pro Hearthstone casters Brian Kibler and Nathan "That's Admirable" Zamora both stepped down from their roles in the wake of last weekend's events, and other pro Hearthstone players like William "Amnesiac" Barton stood in solidarity with blitzchung and urged Blizzard to reconsider their actions.

However, Brack also defended the publisher's initial actions, stating that blitzchung's interview proved to be a disruption. He is likewise claiming that Chinese pressure had nothing to do with Blizzard's original punishment.

Part of Thinking Globally, Leading Responsibly, and Every Voice Matters is recognizing that we have players and fans in almost every country in the world. Our goal is to help players connect in areas of commonality, like their passion for our games, and create a sense of shared community.

"The specific views expressed by blitzchung were NOT a factor in the decision we made. I want to be clear: our relationships in China had no influence on our decision.

"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."

While Blizzard's reversal of course regarding blitzchung's prize money is good to see, the principle of this whole story remains troubling. While Brack can claim that China's influence had no bearing on the publisher's initial actions, the evidence doesn't back that up. Blizzard has a deep tie to China through its various games and esports, including several teams that are active in the Overwatch League. To claim that China didn't play a single factor into a punishment over expressing solidarity for the people of Hong Kong sounds disingenuous, at best.

"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 went on to say in his statement.

Whether Blizzard truly learns from this experience remains to be seen, especially as today's statement (particularly the lateness of it) will likely not dissuade planned protests at Blizzcon in just a few weeks.

Senior Editor

Ozzie has been playing video games since picking up his first NES controller at age 5. He has been into games ever since, only briefly stepping away during his college years. But he was pulled back in after spending years in QA circles for both THQ and Activision, mostly spending time helping to push forward the Guitar Hero series at its peak. Ozzie has become a big fan of platformers, puzzle games, shooters, and RPGs, just to name a few genres, but he’s also a huge sucker for anything with a good, compelling narrative behind it. Because what are video games if you can't enjoy a good story with a fresh Cherry Coke?

From The Chatty
  • reply
    October 11, 2019 6:11 PM

    Ozzie Mejia posted a new article, Blizzard issues statement on blitzchung, reduces punishment

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      October 11, 2019 11:01 PM

      fuck blizzard

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      October 11, 2019 11:25 PM

      Haha released at COB on Friday. Non apology PR bullshit.

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      October 11, 2019 11:52 PM

      fuck the chinese government

    • reply
      October 12, 2019 4:47 AM

      They needed three days to come up with a bunch of padding to soften that lie? Thanks but no. Fuck off Blizzard.

      Blitzchung should wait for that check to clear and then go ham on them in the most public way possible.

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      October 12, 2019 6:24 AM

      I hate the "fuck Blizzard" mentality that this is driving. Blizzard is made up of thousands of employees-- 99% of whom have absolutely nothing to do with this bullshit. They're just regular people going to work, trying to make and maintain awesome games. One small political incident being handled by one small department (and the invisible corporate board pressuring puppeteering them) does not a "fuck everyone" situtation make. It's unfortunate.

      • reply
        October 12, 2019 6:29 AM

        When people express anger at a company, its pretty widely assumed they are directing said hatred at the people at the top who are making these decisions, not the janitors. Your white knighting is unnecessary and kind of weird.

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          October 12, 2019 6:45 AM

          This

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          October 12, 2019 7:51 AM

          Yep I don't blame some janitor or programmer. I blame the people managing this mess. Hell I wouldn't be surprised if Blizzard experiences a drain of talent over their decision making.

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            October 12, 2019 7:59 AM

            Then place your anger where it’s deserved, the Chinese government.

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              October 12, 2019 8:05 AM

              herp derp thanks for the post

              • reply
                October 12, 2019 8:11 AM

                Is it wrong?
                Is Blizzard reversing everything going to suddenly fix human rights in China?
                There are a ton of western companies that do business there and they all have to adhere to the same rules. It’s not them making these policies. It’s the Chinese Communist Party.

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                  October 12, 2019 8:17 AM

                  Those businesses choose what rules to adhere to, they're not required to censor speech on behalf of the CCP. And we choose what companies we support. If your company is promoting China's version of human rights abroad then it's very reasonable for consumers not to support your company in this effort. Consumers have no voting rights to change what the Chinese government does. We do have the ability to tell American companies what we believe through our purchasing habits.

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                    October 12, 2019 8:21 AM

                    There's a benefit of doubt issue here: Has any player or caster in any Blizzard game streamed event ever had a clear political message (more than just something like "Go USA"/patroitism) that they have had to deal with before?

                    It certainly could be the case that Blizzard's first major use of rule came at the worst time - in relation to the China/Hong Kong situation, and because everyone is mass guessing, made the situation worse. I still don't feel that the net result (6 mo ban) is appropriate , but if this was truly the case, Blizzard's response otherwise is appropriate.

                    But I expect that Redditors and others are looking for any previous sign of political speech made during a stream and seeing how Blizzard reacted to this: it seems like something that likely had to come up before with how many years there are in place. And if that case is found, then there's a 100% fair argument for Blizzard's hypocrisy.

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                      October 12, 2019 8:40 AM

                      Even if this is the first instance no one believes Blizzard would've issued a similar punishment for saying MAGA on a stream.

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                        October 12, 2019 8:43 AM

                        Exactly, hence the point about people scouring past streams, and below, watching every future stream to find that moment of hypocrisy. Painted themselves into a corner is the perfect analogy because if they don't take action in the future on a MAGA situation, this will come back to bite them.

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                          October 12, 2019 10:48 AM

                          It’s not just MAGA they painted themselves into a corner on but if someone promotes LGBT rights they have to squelch that as well since it all falls under their silly rules even though sports tournaments have always been used to promote political agendas so they are more full of shit. You can be sure the moment they try to silence LGBT rights if someone does that they’ll be in a world of pain.

                          • reply
                            October 12, 2019 11:21 AM

                            I do not disagree that there becomes no end to what is "inappropriate" per these rules.
                            The better solution: remove that rule or use it in extreme cases (eg someone shouting "Hail Satan!"), issue cautions to all players/casters to avoid this, and limit how much pre-/post-game interviews they do and/or add in time-delay ala network TV.

                            • reply
                              October 12, 2019 12:12 PM

                              All that aside, did you not see Blizzard's statement on Weibo. That tells you everything you need to know about why they took action against the Hearthstone player

                          • reply
                            October 12, 2019 12:02 PM

                            There was a recent spat over a gay Wow guild that had their name banned due to complainers but later reversed. Blizzard told them basically they can have their name back but people can still complain to have it banned again and then they'd have to go through the same process to undo it.

                            Oh the name of the guild was "Gay Boys".

            • reply
              October 12, 2019 8:13 AM

              Already placed with the Chinese government. Doesn't excuse executives for opting to do business with and ultimately grovel to that government for money especially when it means they start making compromises on human rights. Hell every company selling shit to China that's going into building their facial recognition system should be held accountable along with the politicians not putting a stop to it.

            • reply
              October 12, 2019 9:24 AM

              But there are thousands of rank and file drones not doing any harm working in the Chinese government too?

        • reply
          October 12, 2019 10:42 AM

          I blame the janitor! Fuck Gloria that bitch!

      • reply
        October 12, 2019 6:30 AM

        Meanwhile Blizzard will continue to be insanely profitable and successful.

        I agree that nobody should be hostile toward those employees, but there is also no reason to think people are doing anything but speaking their mind.

        Blizzard operates a business, and if people don’t like their business they are gonna say as much.

        • reply
          October 12, 2019 6:37 AM

          It's happening whether you'd like to acknowledge it or not.

          https://twitter.com/OhaiJens/status/1182517185173843968

          • reply
            October 12, 2019 6:43 AM

            Yeah and my point was that harassment is not okay.

            It doesn’t make sense to assume every person who says “fuck Blizzard” is responsible for someone else being an asshole to a Blizzard employee.

            The asshole is the asshole, not the people who are upset about a business.

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              October 12, 2019 6:46 AM

              I agree it's not okay but you said there's no reason to think it's happening when there's plenty.

              • reply
                October 12, 2019 6:51 AM

                Yeah I was wrong to say it that way.

                Still don’t think the vast majority of critics are like this.

        • reply
          October 12, 2019 7:29 AM

          Right. But as a business are they supposed to double back on their previous actions? Not stepping carefully around the CCP will have their business forfeit to them.
          Obviously China is a difficult place to work with coming from the west. They’ve been working with NetEase and others in China for a long time and there are certain aspects of this that people are being willfully ignorant about.
          The situation in Hong Kong has definitely brought out a much more international visibility of the human rights issues.

          On a personal level I’m sure every person hates that they’re now stuck with business interests in a country where these events are happening but they can’t just say fuck it and walk away from it all.

          I’m not saying Blizzard should be absolved of their actions, they definitely did mishandle the situation but they do have a financial responsibility to their shareholders to protect their interests.

          As much as it all sucks I have yet to hear any decent suggestion of how this could have been handled better.

          • reply
            October 12, 2019 8:19 AM

            As much as it all sucks I have yet to hear any decent suggestion of how this could have been handled better.

            Don't behave as an exporter of CCP propaganda and "human rights" for profit. That's how you handle it better. If you don't want to handle it that way then you get some well deserved backlash for what you've prioritized.

          • reply
            October 12, 2019 8:20 AM

            Fuck the shareholders and their interests. Human rights are more important.

            • reply
              October 12, 2019 8:22 AM

              The shareholders above all else mantra is so fundamentally unhealthy.

            • reply
              October 12, 2019 8:33 AM

              And Blizzard reversing the decision is going to solve human rights issues in Hong Kong. Got it.

              • reply
                October 12, 2019 8:42 AM

                What is this dumb shit? Well since our business can't shape official CCP policy our only option is to handsomely profit from supporting their morally indefensible positions?

                • reply
                  October 12, 2019 9:13 AM

                  And if they immediately cut ties their stock would crumble and they’d all be fired within the day.
                  Clearly it’s a very complex, shitty situation. They fucked up. They need to deal with it all very strategically.
                  There’s no denying that the CCP has made some terrible moves recently, now it’s up to western businesses that have established themselves there to sort out how to deal with their presence there.

                  • reply
                    October 12, 2019 10:31 AM

                    "The CCP has made some terrible moves recently" Is in the running for most blase understatement of the year.

                    • reply
                      October 12, 2019 10:32 AM

                      I mean that's not a far cry from "Gee, I wish the Nazis were a little more progressive about gays".

                    • reply
                      October 12, 2019 10:38 AM

                      Yes, it’s terrible. Not enough description for you? Don’t know what else to say dude. But please go ahead and liken me to a nazi apologist. Oh wait, you already did.

                      • reply
                        October 12, 2019 10:41 AM

                        We're talking about a group that is not just oppressing peoples, but actively profiting off murdering them for their organs.

                        Complain about the Nazi comparison if you want, but I'm comfortable with it.

                        • reply
                          October 12, 2019 10:42 AM

                          Yes, it’s terrible. But giving me shit for not using enough adjectives is a dumb fucking argument.

              • reply
                October 12, 2019 8:43 AM

                Are you entirely unaware of the phrase ‘every little bit helps’ or are you just being willfully ignorant to play up some weird Blizzard persecution complex?

                • reply
                  October 12, 2019 8:54 AM

                  No. I think that Blizzard fucked up but I also think their response was pretty much all they could do given the situation once it happened.

                  • reply
                    October 12, 2019 12:18 PM

                    The could have done what the NBA did. Apologize for banning the player (or condemning the Rockers owner in their case), then reaffirm their commitment to freedom of expression.

                    NBA definitely lost a lot of future business, but at least they kept some of their integrity.

              • reply
                October 12, 2019 8:56 AM

                If China is forcing Blizzard to censure and punish players for speaking against China, then Blizzard should grow a spine and stop doing business with them.

                What's worse? A few greedy Activision chiefs and investors lose money, or China's dictatorship is allowed gain control over what we are allowed to think and say on Internet? This is a critical point where western civilization needs to tell China to fuck off, to forbid them from gaining political influence over here. No it wouldn't solve the issues in HK or China right now, but it would set clear limits on what they are allowed to do globally.

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                  October 12, 2019 9:00 AM

                  Right but that’s a decision they need to make strategically over time, not as a knee jerk reaction to a comment on a stream.
                  I completely agree that it’s bad and it may lead to that down the line, but they’re also not going to cut ties on things this fast. It’s just not realistic.

                  • reply
                    October 12, 2019 9:17 AM

                    Allowing some local Chinese Blizzard guys to ban the streamer for 12 months, taking away his tournament winnings, and writing a dick-sucking apology to the Chinese government was a knee-jerk reaction.

                    • reply
                      October 12, 2019 9:18 AM

                      Yes. They literally admitted that in the letter.

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                        October 12, 2019 10:17 AM

                        Cept for the part where they denied their relationship with China was a factor and never actually addressed their separate Chinese statement.

                        • reply
                          October 12, 2019 12:19 PM

                          Yep, they lied like hell in their statement. Saying it had "nothing to do with China" is demonstrably false.

                  • reply
                    October 12, 2019 10:47 AM

                    "that’s a decision they need to make strategically over time"

                    but you seem to be vehemently against anyone saying anything negative about it in the present, so in your ideal world, why would they ever change what they're doing in the future?

                    • reply
                      October 12, 2019 11:05 AM

                      No. I’m not against it. Blizz fucked up. I’ve stated that pretty much ever post about this subject.
                      No doubt about that. I want them to get out of there as soon as they can.
                      I just don’t think it’s realistic for people to expect a company to walk out on a billion dollar part of their company without some serious planning.

      • reply
        October 12, 2019 6:52 AM

        I remember when Blizzard was a young company and literally the coolest developer on the planet.

        Now they're uncool grampa.

        • reply
          October 12, 2019 7:44 AM

          They've lived long enough to see themselves become the villain. They are Two Face. Oh shit....

      • reply
        October 12, 2019 8:09 AM

        It's not a small political issue, it's a huge political issue.

      • reply
        October 12, 2019 10:25 AM

        "one small political incident"

    • reply
      October 12, 2019 6:58 AM

      Seems like they're painting themselves into a corner. They now have to take a hardline stance against all political advocacy in their streams, no matter how anodyne, if they don't want to get called out as hypocrites. Seems like this might just cause more problems for them.

      • reply
        October 12, 2019 7:33 AM

        Exactly this. Mind you, they're talking only players and casters - having watching many an OWL event, there's going to be a lot of attempts from the crowd to do that

      • reply
        October 12, 2019 12:21 PM

        I think the more important thing is for everybody to remember that is definitely not why they banned the guy, and any future actions will just be them covering their ass for the original incident. Blizzard is completely willing to export China's draconian regulation of speech, and that is fucking shameful.

      • reply
        October 12, 2019 8:24 AM

        [deleted]

        • reply
          October 12, 2019 8:35 AM

          Blizzards response was dated the 12th but it was the 11th still in the US, and midnight in Europe but morning in China, suggesting their response was posted from China.

          • reply
            October 12, 2019 8:39 AM

            Been pointed out that Blizzard's blog posts everything in GMT. So that came out 8pm EDT 10/11, making it ~1am 10/12.

            The timing, if anything, was to clear any stock market impact.

    • reply
      October 12, 2019 8:40 AM

      They showed their values. You don't get a do over.

    • reply
      October 12, 2019 9:18 AM

      It's a fascinating example of an entire PR department writing text for 3 days nonstop.

      Striking a balance between bullshit, facts and investors has always been the end goal for saying nothing, doing nothing and trying to look like you are doing everything in your power to do the "right thing".

      The real question is how Blizzard reacts when someone goes pro China.

      The gamers, that is us, have a real opportunity to say enough is enough and make Blizzard, in the long run, including skipping Diablo 4...

      • reply
        October 12, 2019 12:26 PM

        About how "Blizzard reacts when someone goes pro China."

        It doesn't matter if they ban somebody for going "pro China". Blizzard as a company has firmly come out as pro-CCP, both through their actions and in writing on their Weibo account. That is the issue at the heart of the matter. Any action they take on political speech in the future will be strictly to cover their ass for the Hearthstone incident and any future anti-CCP players.

    • reply
      October 12, 2019 9:41 AM

      So... I haven't been keeping up - the kid expressed support for Hong Kong and Blizzard punished him. Now they're giving him the money back and cutting his suspension in half.

      Why don't they just undo the suspension too and apologize to him? What possible benefit could there be to not just hitting "Undo" on this whole thing?

      I mean I guess the answer is that China is still someone to be appeased but they probably won't be happy that Blizzard compromised so why not go all the way on this?

      And more to the point would anyone have noticed this kid's statement at all had Blizzard just ignored it?

      • reply
        October 12, 2019 10:37 AM

        China to Blizzard: "We have our legacy to consider!"

        Blizzard:
        "No, we are a company that values freedom of expression and will not silence even the smallest voices."
        "This situation may not make you happy but will blow over if we don't make a big deal out of it. People will move on to the next voice and you can get someone to promote your views since they would on equal ground."
        "Very well, we see that your dignity is of our utmost importance and respect for your fine values must not be allowed to be violated. We will administer the greatest example that even you will find extraordinary. China Forever!"

        (/looping electronic Sci Fi music)

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