Even in a relatively short amount of time, Blizzard’s decision to suspend a Hearthstone player for pro-Hong Kong statements made during a post-match interview have elicited a great deal of scrutiny and protests. Now, it seems like the company is re-examining its stance in the wake of it.
Speaking to Engadget, a spokesperson for the company told them that Blizzard is “assessing the situation for now.”
This is the first comment made on the matter since Blizzard’s initial ruling, where Hearthstone player Ng “blitzchung” Wai Chung received a 12-month suspension from competitive Hearthstone, including removal from Hearthstone Grandmasters and his earnings thus far being rescinded. Two commentators were also let go. These punishments were handed down due to Chung’s vocal support of the ongoing protests in Hong Kong, saying “Liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our age” during a post-match interview.
In the hours since, the Hearthstone community at large has been quick to scrutinize Blizzard’s decision, calling for boycotts while some internal Blizzard employees silently protested the ruling. Last night, a collegiate Hearthstone team for American University held up a sign mid-match that read “Free Hong Kong, Boycott Blizzard”, and the Overwatch character Mei was co-opted as a symbol of protest against Blizzard’s actions.
New developments have been streaming out over the course of the day, with popular Hearthstone player and commentator Brian Kibler saying he would no longer cast the Grandmasters finals at BlizzCon due to the ruling. The Daily Beast also reports that some some Blizzard employees staged a walkout in protest of the decision.
Blizzard has found itself at the center of an international mess of its own making, so it’s no surprise that the level of immediate and overwhelming response has caused decision-makers within the company to reconsider. As tensions mount around interests in China’s economy and the ongoing protests in Hong Kong, the window could be open for Blizzard to walk this back; the question is whether it will, and whether it will regain any faith it lost from fans in the process.