- Blizzard entertainment
- Blizzard Entertainment president J. Allen Brack said he would "accept responsibility" for a controversy involving a professional gambler who supported the protests in Hong Kong.
- Last month, Blizzard's parent company, Activision Blizzard, received a letter from a bipartisan group of US congressmen accusing Blizzard of censoring professional player Ng Wai Chung, or "Blitzchung" to protect its business interests in China.
- Blitzchung was punished by Blizzard after he called for Hong Kong's release during an interview at a Blizzard-sponsored event on October 5. Blizzard responded initially by removing Blitzchung from his cash prize and banning him and the two commentators who conducted the Hearthstone interview for a year.
- The suspension was later reduced to six months – Blizzard said Blitzchung was punished for making political statements that caught the eye of the video game competition.
- Brack said China was not a factor in Blizzard decision-making, but the punishment received widespread criticism and protest at Blizzard's annual fan conference, BlizzCon, on November 1.
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In his first public appearance since Blizzard Entertainment sparked an international controversy, President J. Allen Brack apologized to fans and said he would "accept responsibility" for the company's decision to punish a pro player who supported the protests in Hong Kong – but the player will remain suspended from competitions until March 2020.
Blizzard suspended competitor "Hearthstone" Ng Wai Chung, or "Blitzchung", and two commentators on "Hearthstone" competitions for six months after Blitzchung called for Hong Kong's release during a post-match interview at a Blizzard-sponsored event. on October 5th. Blizzard's decision, which originally included a one-year suspension and stripped Blitzchung of thousands of dollars in cash, caught the attention of US lawmakers and left fans threatening to boycott.
A bipartisan group of US congressmen accused Blizzard of censuring Blitzchung for protecting its business interests in China and sent a letter asking Blizzard's controlling company Activision Blizzard to reverse the punishment.
Almost a month after the suspension of Blitzchung, protesters lined up outside BlizzCon, the annual Blizzard fan convention in Anaheim, California, to express their support for the Hong Kong protests and protest Blizzard's punishment during the BlizzCon weekend.
- Tiffany Chang / Business Specialist
Brack addressed the situation in the early stages of BlizzCon, but his comments did not acknowledge the accusations that Blizzard was censoring Blitzchung for the sake of Chinese interests. In earlier statements, Brack said China was not a factor in Blizzard's decision making and Blizzard decided to punish Blitzchung for diverting attention from the video game competition with political commentary.
"Blizzard had a chance to bring the world together at a tough time in Hearthstone e-sports about a month ago, and we didn't," Brack told the BlizzCon audience. "We move very quickly in our decisions and, to make matters worse, take a long time to talk to all of you."
In its opening statement to # BlizzCon2019, Blizzard Entertainment President J. Allen Brack spoke about the company's decision to suspend @blitzchunghsby saying "we failed in our purpose". To see: pic.twitter.com/MprX4GPDKC
– ESPN Esports (@ESPN_Esports) November 1, 2019
Brack later reaffirmed Blizzard's position on the suspension in an interview with PC Gamer.
In the days following the announcement of the October 8th suspension of Blitzchung, Blizzard fans organized boycotts of the company on social media, and a group of employees organized a tour of the company headquarters. Critics accused Blizzard of violating the value of his company, "Every Voice Matters." The company remained silent for days while the controversy drew the attention of US lawmakers such as Senator Ron Wyden and Senator Marco Rubio.
At BlizzCon, Brack said he would "accept responsibility" for the situation and that Blizzard was committed to doing better in the future. He said the company will continue to try to connect people around the world through video games. There was no mention of lifting the suspension of Blitzchung.
Outside, protesters continued to sing in support of the pro player and his pro-Hong Kong message over the weekend, while Blizzard turned its focus to video games.
You can read Brack's full opening statement at BlizzCon below:
“Blizzard had a chance to bring the world together at a tough time in Hearthstone e-sports, about a month ago, and we didn't. We change our decisions very quickly and, to make matters worse, take a long time to talk to all of you.
When I think of what I am most unhappy about, it is really two things: the first is that we do not meet the high standards we set for ourselves and the second is that we fail in our purpose. And so, I apologize and accept responsibility.
So what exactly is our purpose? BlizzCon is showing it now. We aspire to unite the world with epic entertainment, and I truly believe in the positive power of video games. When we get it right, we create common ground where the community comes together to compete, connect and play – no matter what divides us. BlizzCon has people from 59 countries around the world here today, that's amazing. And that is the positive power of video games, transcending the divisions that surround us in many of our places.
We will do better going forward, but our actions will be more important than any of these words. As you walk this weekend, I hope it becomes clear how committed we are to the right of people to express themselves, from all kinds and types of places.
As we have seen and heard many of you expressing yourself this morning. You use your vacation and family time to be here in Anaheim with us, and we are so grateful that you are here. Our best moments are here in our shared passion for Blizzard games.
So, once again, BlizzCon brought us together and you'll see a lot of the hard work of the Blizzard team. "