Blizzard ended up in the eye of the storm after banning pro player Chung "Blitzchung" Ng Wai from the tournament, accused of spending positive words on Hong Kong protests. "While we stand by one's right to express individual thoughts and opinions, players and other participants that elect to participate in our esports competition must abide by the official competition rules", Blizzard explained.
As reported by Inven Global, Chung appeared on the stream wearing a respirator and ski goggles - similar protective equipment as used by the protestors - and told viewers, in Chinese, to 'liberate Hong Kong, [the] revolution of our age!
Blizzard is not the only US company trying to distance themselves from the controversial Hong Kong protests.
Blizzard has taken another hit on the Hearthstone esports front as Nathan "ThatsAdmirable" Zamora, one of the main casters of the Grandmasters league, has announced that he is withdrawing from the casting team for the remainder of the Grandmasters season, and will not take part in the Masters Tour in Bucharest, or cast at BlizzCon.
"Blitzchung's actions to support Hong Kong speak to me far more than I could have imagined". The players involved will be banned, and the commentators involved will be immediately terminated from any official business.
In a tweet that has since been deleted, Justin "Jayne" Conroy acknowledged Blizzard's rights to enforce the rules of the competition, but condemned the company's as an act of censorship. A spokesman told Engadget that they are considering their options about how to handle the matter, but has said nothing since.
That kind of appeasement is simply not something I can in good conscience be associated with.
The matter has also drawn the attention of USA politicians. Marco Rubio of Florida and Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon. With Chinese firm Tencent having a stake in Activision Blizzard, and the gaming sector in that region being one of the fastest growing and most lucrative in the world, the decision - if not pressured - was at best harsh and unfair. The company hasn't publicly commented since banning Chung, but recently told Engadget it was 'assessing the situation.' That reassessment may have something to do with pressure from United States senators, who have stated the company is 'willing to humiliate itself to please the Chinese Communist Party. "No American company should censor calls for freedom to make a quick buck". China supplied 12% of the 7.5 billion dollars Activision-Blizzard made a year ago. The NBA is also embroiled in its own controversy involving Hong Kong and China after the Houston Rockets general manager Darryl Morey shared a tweet in support of the protests.