BlizzCon 2019 opens with apology for Hearthstone Hong Kong controversy

Blizzard has been in the news for all the wrong reasons in recent in recent times, following the banning of Heathstone player Chung “Blitzchung” Ng Wai over making a political statement around the Hong Kong pro-democracy protests.

Though they’ve already tried (and failed) to defuse the situation, which had some stating their intention to protest at BlizzCon itself, Blizzard Entertainment President J. Allen Brack chose to open BlizzCon 2019 with a candid and straightforward apology on stage:

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Blizzard had the opportunity to bring the world together in a tough Hearthstone esports moment about a month ago, and we did not. We moved too quickly with our decision making, and then to make matters worse we were too slow to talk with all of you.

When I think about what I was most unhappy about, it’s really two things. The first one is we didn’t live up to the high standards we set for ourselves, and the second is that we failed in our purpose, and for that I am sorry and accept accountability.

The problem is that this doesn’t really change much of anything. The debacle quickly spiralled out of control for Blizzard, after they took the drastic step to ban Blitzchung and withhold his prize month. After withstanding pressure, they eventually caved to a certain extent, reinstating his winnings and reducing his ban to 6 months.

Even this has continued to draw criticism, extending to members of the US government. Though they have claimed that the decision had nothing to do with pressure from China, that hasn’t been met with belief by many people. That includes members of those members of the US Congress who wrote a letter directly to Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick.

Ron Wyden, Marco Rubio, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Mike Gallagher, and Tom Malinowski all signed off the letter in which the demand was made that Activision Blizzard decides whether it upholds American values of freedom of speech, or if it continues to bow down to China in the quest for market share.

This statement makes no further concessions to those banned, Blizchung or otherwise, but Blizzard will no doubt be hoping to put this situation behind them at BlizzCon. They’d much rather we focus on new announcements that hope to enthral their longterm fans. Diablo 4, Overwatch 2 and more are all expected to be announced.

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