While the NBA deals with the fallout and subsequent backlash in both the United States and China sparked by a tweet about Hong Kong, gaming giant Blizzard has dealt with its own growing problem sparked because of a protest from a professional Hearthstone player.
The NBA’s problems began when Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey tweeted support of protesters in Hong Kong who were against Chinese action in the nation. His tweet was later deleted when the Chinese Basketball Association and Tencent strongly opposed that tweet, putting serious strain on the business relationship between the NBA and China. But Blizzard has seen a protest of its own blow up in an unexpected way when a Hearthstone player from Hong Kong, Chung Ng Wai, offered support to protesters in a postgame interview.
— 🎃 Inven Global 🎃 (@InvenGlobal) October 6, 2019
Blizzard responded by banning the player from competition for a year and retroactively taking away $10,000 in prize winnings from him in the process. The move resulted in outrage in the Hearthstone community, with many wondering why Blizzard would censor a player so harshly.
Breaking: Effective immediately, Blizzard has removed Hong Kong Hearthstone player blitzchung from Hearthstone Grand Masters, rescinded all his prize money, and have suspended him from pro play for one year for his recent interview.
— Rod Breslau (@Slasher) October 8, 2019
As The Daily Beast pointed out, Blizzard is partially owned by Tencent, and the company makes more than 10 percent of its total revenue in Asian markets like China. As the controversy unfolded, many in the gaming industry and even those working for Blizzard were upset about the move. On Wednesday, a few dozen Blizzard employees staged a walkout and protested near a statue at the company’s headquarters, which had also been covered up to protest the company’s actions earlier in the week.
Not everyone at Blizzard agrees with what happened.
Both the "Think Globally" and "Every Voice Matters" values have been covered up by incensed employees this morning. pic.twitter.com/I7nAYUes6Q
— Kevin Hovdestad (@lackofrealism) October 8, 2019
This also led to some collegiate Hearthstone players to also protest during live broadcasts, which also drew consequences from Blizzard.
in tonight's Collegiate Hearthstone championship, American University held up a "Free Hong Kong, boycott Blizzard" during the broadcast, which was quickly cut away by Blizzard pic.twitter.com/Y9eXtLfuGw
— Rod Breslau (@Slasher) October 9, 2019
There’s growing talk about a boycott of Blizzard products and games within the gaming community in the wake of their actions against protesters, and even American senators are getting involved by tweeting about the controversy. While tensions between the NBA and China may finally be easing a bit — a preseason game in China did, indeed, happen after all — it doesn’t seem like as clear a solution can be found in gaming.