The Hearthstone Grandmasters is taking place currently, but the event isn’t making news for the reasons we might normally expect. Normally, fans of the game would be entertained with stories of outstanding plays and close wins. But, this morning, instead of that, the gaming community is calling for a boycott of Blizzard following their decision to remove a player from the tournament and deny him the money for his performance.
This action followed a tournament interview with the player in question — Ng Wai “blitzchung” Chung — where he shouted “Liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our age!” while wearing a mask on camera. The mask is similar to the ones worn by protesters in ongoing Hong Kong protests in an effort to conceal their identities.
— 🎃 Inven Global 🎃 (@InvenGlobal) October 6, 2019
As you can see in the tweet above, the stream cut to commercial immediately after the statement, returning after with just the hosts.
According to Blizzard, Chung was found to be in violation of one of the Hearthstone tournament rules of player conduct — specifically the one that addresses players doing something deemed offensive.
Engaging in any act that, in Blizzard’s sole discretion, brings you into public disrepute, offends a portion or group of the public, or otherwise damages Blizzard image will result in removal from Grandmasters and reduction of the player’s prize total to $0 USD, in addition to other remedies which may be provided for under the Handbook and Blizzard’s Website Terms.
Reportedly, Blizzard also followed up Chung’s 12-month suspension by firing the two casters seen in the video above. As noted by esports consultant Rod Breslau who’s been tracking the whole thing on Twitter, the casters weren’t (to anyone’s knowledge) aware of what was going to happen.
Blizzard has also fired both of the Hearthstone casters working the event, both of whom literally ducked underneath the desk during the interview and neither of which to my knowledge had any idea what was going to be said
very cool, Blizzard
— Rod Breslau (@Slasher) October 8, 2019
It also appears Blizzard isn’t taking any criticism on their decision as they elected to disable comments on the post announcing their decision to ban Chung.
As a result of these moves, players of Blizzard’s games are now calling for a boycott of the company and all its properties. Throughout the morning, World of Warcraft players have been posting images showing they’d canceled their subscriptions.
In some ways, Blizzard’s decision — while incredibly disappointing — is not surprising. Like many western-based video game companies, Blizzard is financially tied to Tencent in an ongoing effort to make the most of the Chinese market. Part of the Chinese company’s job when dealing with western companies is to assure they comply with the various requirements set by the Chinese government. Otherwise, the company in question will be barred from doing business in the country.
With the copious ties Tencent has to western companies, and the growing reliance of those companies on the Chinese market, it may be that we’ll see more of this from other developers in the future.