Despite a busy BlizzCon, Blizzard Entertainment can't seem to do enough to win back fans after handing down a six-month suspension to professional Hearthstone player Blitzchung for showing his support of Hong Kong protestors. Now, one of Blizzard's top developers for Overwatch 2 has stated that Blitzchung's suspension should be "reduced more or eliminated."
In a recent interview with The Washington Post, Jeff Kaplan, lead game director for Overwatch 2, said that he was "relieved" to hear that Blitzchung's suspension was reduced from 12 months to six months, but also stated, "I think the suspension should be reduced more or eliminated, but that's just me." Kaplan added, "I'm obviously a huge supporter of free speech; it's something that's very important to me ... I think the punishment was too harsh and I was greatly relieved when they gave his money back."
Kaplan isn't the first Blizzard employee to speak out against the company's actions on Blitzchung, as Hearthstone game director Ben Lee also called it "too harsh" when asked about the initial decision to suspend the player. The original suspension was widely criticized by other esports professionals, players, and gaming community members, as well as members of the US Senate, which then led to Blizzard Entertainment reducing the suspension.
Kaplan added that most of his staff didn't even know about the incident until they saw news articles reporting on the issue. On issuing suspensions to players Kaplan added, "That process usually takes about four or five days to make the decision. There's always a group of us involved in deciding what the punishment should be ... I was shocked that such a harsh penalty was levied."
The interview comes after Blizzard President J. Allen Brack issued an apology to the company’s fans, calling it a “tough Hearthstone esports moment" following Mitsubishi's decision to withdraw their sponsorship of Blizzard Entertainment. While addressing the BlizzCon audience, Brack took responsibility for the handling of the situation by stating, “We moved too quickly in our decision-making. To make matters worse, we were too slow to talk with all of you.” Though Brack has said that the company's action will speak louder than its words in the future, he confirmed that Blitzchung's suspension would not be rescinded.
Blitzchung has since taken responsibility for his actions and offered his gratitude for Blizzard reducing his suspension, while also addressing the length of the suspension. "My act could take the conversation away from the purpose of the event. Six months is still quite a lot to me," Blitzchung said on Twitter.
Source: The Washington Post