Blizzard President Responds to Hong Kong Controversy

J. Allen Brack_Blizzcon - Publicity - H 2018
Courtesy of Blizzard Entertainment

"I want to be clear: our relationships in China had no influence on our decision," wrote J. Allen Brack in a blog post on Friday evening.

Blizzard Entertainment president J. Allen Brack has responded to the growing controversy surrounding his company in the wake of a suspension it levied on professional Hearthstone player Chung "Blitzchung" Ng Wai after he made statements supporting protestors in Hong Kong during a livestream over the weekend.

"At Blizzard, our vision is 'to bring the world together through epic entertainment,'" Brack wrote in a blog post on Friday evening. "And we have core values that apply here: Think Globally; Lead Responsibly; and importantly, Every Voice Matters, encouraging everybody to share their point of view. The actions that we took over the weekend are causing people to question if we are still committed to these values. We absolutely are and I will explain.

"Our esports programs are an expression of our vision and our values," he continued, before stating that Blizzard's goal is to "build diverse and inclusive communities.

"Over the weekend, Blitzchung used his segment to make a statement about the situation in Hong Kong — in violation of rules he acknowledged and understood, and this is why we took action," Brack wrote. "Every Voice Matters, and we strongly encourage everyone in our community to share their viewpoints in the many places available to express themselves. 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."

In addition to Chung's suspension, Blizzard also fired the two interviewers who he made the pro-Hong Kong comments to. Chung was also forced to forfeit his prize earnings from competing in Hearthstone.

Many criticized Blizzard's decision as a sign that they were kowtowing to the Chinese government, similar to the controversy currently surrounding the NBA. Blizzard's games are popular in the Chinese market, and Chinese conglomerate Tencent is a minority stakeholder in Blizzard.

"I want to be clear: our relationships in China had no influence on our decision," Brack wrote. "We have these rules to keep the focus on the game and on the tournament to the benefit of a global audience, and that was the only consideration in the actions we took. If this had been the opposing viewpoint delivered in the same divisive and deliberate way, we would have felt and acted the same."

Among those who have criticized Blizzard's decision to ban Chung are Mark Kern, a game developer who worked on Blizzard's World of Warcraft and left the company in 2006, and Epic Games CEO and founder Tim Sweeney, whose company makes the popular Fortnite video game.

"Of all the companies in the world, Blizzard is the LAST company I ever expected to give in to China’s demands," Kern tweeted earlier this week. 

"Epic supports everyone’s right to speak freely. China players of Fortnite are free to criticize the US or criticize Epic just as equally as all others," tweeted Sweeney.

Brack conceded that Blizzard's "process wasn’t adequate, and we reacted too quickly" to the controversy. Brack also backtracked on the mandate that Chung must forfeit his prize money, saying, "In the tournament itself blitzchung *played* fair. We now believe he should receive his prizing." The company is also walking back the length of Chung's suspension to six months. The two interviewers are also being issued a six month ban, effectively reinstating them in their positions once the suspension is served.

"Moving forward, we will continue to apply tournament rules to ensure our official broadcasts remain focused on the game and are not a platform for divisive social or political views," Brack said.

Next month, Blizzard will hold its annual BlizzCon event in Anaheim, where fans and media from around the world will gather to hear news from the gaming company.