Ng Wai “blitzchung” Chung, the Hearthstone pro at the center of the Blizzard controversy that has spiraled well beyond just one banning, has shared his updated thoughts on the company’s handling of the situation after he received a reduced punishment thanks to the huge amount of people rallying around his cause. The controversy began with blitzchung’s victory during the Hearthstone Grandmaster tournament, which featured a winner’s interview segment that featured the pro appearing on webcam and shouting “liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our age,” a reference to the tumultuous political climate in Hong Kong, the location of protests following a controversial legal proposal.
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Blizzard responded almost immediately, stripping blitzchung of his Grandmaster status and withholding his prize money while also banning the player from the professional scene for a year. It was a move that many felt was not just too harsh, but outwardly cowardly – Blizzard has a vested interested in the Chinese video game market, which is inextricable from the country’s government thanks to strict censorship policies, and many believed the decision was entirely motivated by protecting profits at the expense of player freedom. For blitzchung’s part, the player expressed disbelief at the punishment and appeared to be considering leaving the game altogether as fans rallied around him and called for Blizzard to make drastic changes to the decision.
While the situation continues to become messier, at the very least, it’s become a much better one for blitzchung overall – Blizzard announced over the weekend that the pro would get his winnings back and will only be suspended for six months rather than a year. Blizzard’s justification for the continued suspension is that the company outlined in its policies that it would penalize players for taking away from the purpose of the vent and disrupting the broadcast. For blitzchung, it’s a major boon, one that he was quick to identify as something he believes is fair while expressing gratitude to Blizzard during a statement he wrote on Twitter, which also called for reconsidering the punishment the broadcasters who were present for his statement were issued.
Despite blitzchung himself thanking Blizzard for the reconsideration, its nevertheless a huge punishment, especially in the context of a collegiate team that supported the “Free Hong Kong” movement live on stream and were barely punished, instead choosing to voluntarily forfeit their spot in the tournament to stand with blitzchung and the movement at large. The backlash has been brutal for Blizzard, too, which has had to cancel events, carefully toe the line in press releases, and is constantly being blasted over claims of censorship and greed.
While blitzchung’s response at least indicates the pro is doing better now than he was a week ago, the same can’t be said for Blizzard. The company’s public image has taken a massive blow, and for an industry titan that seemingly had no end to good will toward it, the tone has changed heading in to what will undoubtedly be a BlizzCon event that defines the company for years to come, well beyond the state of its Hearthstone Grandmaster scene.
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