Blizzard president J. Allen Brack has issued an official statement regarding this past week's controversy over professional Hearthstone player Blitzchung's pro-Hong Kong comments said during an official broadcast.
Blizzard is standing by the necessity of its punishment for Blitzchung and the two Hearthstone casters who were performing the interview. However, Blizzard has reevaluated the severity of its punishments and is reducing all bans to 6 months, as well as reinstating Blitzchung's prize money of over $10,000.
Blizzard specifically comments on the criticism claiming that its decisions were made due to the company's relationship with China. According to Blizzard, Blitzchung's expressed pro-Hong Kong sentiment was not a factor in the company's decision-making. Brack explains, "I want to be clear: our relationships in China had no influence on our decision." Brack says that it's only Blizchung's "divisive and deliberate" political statement that led to his punishment.
While Blizzard's statement doesn't apologize or course correct in any regard, Brack does state that "our process wasn't adequate, and we reacted too quickly." Despite that sentiment Blizzard doesn't offer any insight into potential changes within the company or to its process.
Blizzard's comments regarding Blitzchung reconfirm his punishment, citing that he "violated rules he acknowledged and understood." Brack states that while "we strongly encourage everyone in our community to share their viewpoints... the official broadcast needs to be about the tournament and to be a place where all are welcome." The decision to reinstate Blitzchung's winnings is apparently because Blitzchung still played the tournament fairly. The decision to reduce his ban from 1 year to 6 months is simply noted as "more appropriate."
Regarding the two Hearthstone casters, Blizzard only states that a casters' role is to "stay focused on the tournament and our amazing players." The only reason cited for these casters' 6-month suspension is that they didn't keep that focus.
Regarding Last Weekend’s Hearthstone Grandmasters Tournamenthttps://t.co/4KAsV9HqP8— Blizzard Entertainment (@Blizzard_Ent) October 12, 2019
It won't come as a surprise that Blizzard's statement is already controversial. A 6-month suspension remains severe by Blizzard's own standards. For example, pro player Disguised Toast was banned for just 3 days after teaching viewers how to use an exploit on their stream. Overwatch player xQc was initially banned for just four league games for repeated use of bigoted slurs. And there's no real precedent for banning casters for the words of their interviewees.
Unprecedented remains the best way to describe the situation. And as such it's unsurprising that much of the Blizzard community, from Reddit where the statement is at the top of the /r/games subreddit, to Twitter where the #BoyCottBlizzard hashtag is once again trending, is struggling to take today's statement in good faith.