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Blizzard reduces punishment for banned Hearthstone pro, blitzchung responds

By Koh Wanzi - on 13 Oct 2019, 3:12pm

Blizzard reduces punishment for banned Hearthstone pro, blitzchung responds

Image Source: EPA-EFE

Blizzard Entertainment has finally released a statement on the entire Hong Kong controversy, which saw the game developer issue a one-year suspension to Hearthstone Grandmasters player Ng "blitzchung" Wai-Chung after he voiced support for Hong Kong's anti-government protests in a post-game interview in Taipei. 

Blitzchung will now see his one-year suspension reduced to six months, and he will receive the prize money that was originally withheld. In addition, the two casters who were fired will have their suspension set to six months as well. 

The company tried to strike a conciliatory tone in the statement, written by president J. Allen Brack, acknowledging that it "reacted too quickly" in meting out the ban. At the same time however, Blizzard is standing behind its stance that blitzchung violated the tournament rules, claiming that "our relationships in China had no influence on our decision".

"If this had been the opposing viewpoint delivered in the same divisive and deliberate way, we would have felt and acted the same," said Brack. 

Blizzard originally banned blitzchung from taking part in Hearthstone competitions for a year and also stripped him of his prize money from the Grandmasters tournament. This happened after blitzchung, who is from Hong Kong, shouted "Liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our times" in Mandarin during a live-streamed interview on 5 October.

Image Source: Handout

Blizzard also terminated its relationship with the two casters who interviewed blitzchung, because it is holding them responsible for blitzchung's actions. "With regard to the casters, remember their purpose is to keep the event focused on the tournament," said Brack. 

However, it's clearly difficult to ignore the furore that has surrounded Blizzard in the days since that happened. Prominent Hearthstone casters have ended their involvement in the Grandmasters tournament as well, including Brian Kibler and Nathan "Admirable" Zamora. A small group of Blizzard employees also staged a walk-out at the Activision Blizzard offices in California. 

In a statement posted to TwitLonger, blitzchung has said that he is "grateful for Blizzard reconsidering their position" about the ban. However, he also said that he hoped Blizzard would reconsider the penalty imposed on the two casters. And even though he will be able to compete again in six months, the player didn't confirm that he would be returning to the competitive circuit, saying that he had not decided yet.

Brack's statement seems unlikely to appease Blizzard's critics, especially since Brack explicitly brings up Blizzard's values, including "Every Voice Matters", which clearly goes against the company's recent actions. "The official broadcast needs to be about the tournament and to be a place where all are welcome. In support of that, we want to keep the official channels focused on the game," wrote Brack.

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