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BlizzCon 2019: Blizzard apologizes for its response to Hong Kong protests

The past month has been tumultuous for the company

Ng “blitzchung” Wai Chung in a gas mask on a Hearthstone esports stream Blizzard Entertainment via Polygon
Nicole Carpenter is a senior reporter specializing in investigative features about labor issues in the game industry, as well as the business and culture of games.

Blizzard has spoken twice about its decision to suspend Hong Kong Hearthstone player Ng “blitzchung” Wai Chung — first, when it suspended the player, and later, when it shortened his punishment.

Now, during the BlizzCon 2019 opening ceremony in Anaheim, California, the company has addressed ongoing criticism it has faced since then. Blizzard president J. Allen Brack appeared at the event to talk about the ongoing controversy — though on a time delay of multiple minutes for at-home viewers.

“We moved too quickly in our decision, and then, to make matters worse, we were too slow to talk with all of you,” Brack said. “We didn’t live up to the high standards we set for ourselves. We failed in our purpose.”

Brack continued:

I am sorry and I accept accountability. What exactly is our purpose? BlizzCon is demonstrating it as we speak. We aspire to bring the world together in epic entertainment. I truly believe in the positive power of video games.

When we get it right, we create a common ground where the community comes together to compete, connect, and play, irrespective of the things that divide us. BlizzCon has people from 59 countries all around the world at the show today. That is amazing. That is the positive power of video games — to transcend divisions around us. We will do better going forward. But our actions are going to matter more than any of these words. As you walk around this weekend, I hope it’s clear how committed we are to people expressing themselves.

We’ve seen many of you expressing yourselves this morning.

Today you’re going to see a lot of the hard work of the Blizzard team. I am personally so proud of what we are building and I hope you love it too. Thank you for joining us.

Blizzard did not speak directly about blitzchung, nor did it note any decision to adjust his punishment further.

Previously, Brack said blitzchung played fairly during his match, but that his on-stream statements were against the rules. “Every Voice Matters, and we strongly encourage everyone in our community to share their viewpoints in the many places available to express themselves,” Brack wrote. “However, 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.”

He added that Blizzard’s relationships in China had no bearing on its decision to punish blitzchung. In the aftermath of Blizzard’s decision, players, employees, and politicians are furious — protests began at BlizzCon this morning, but boycotts have been ongoing all month.

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