BlizzCon to Open with Big Protest
Blizzard has been subject of an exceptional amount of controversy over previous weeks since their ban of Ng “Blitzchung” Wai Chung following a call for the liberation of Hong Kong during a Hearthstone tournament. Since then, Blizzard has been the subject of criticism from the media, gamers, its own employees and even prominent politicians.
Now, the public outcry against Blizzard will hit very close to home. Fighting for the Future will be launching a massive protest on the opening day of Blizzard’s biggest event of the year, BlizzCon, under the Gamers for Freedom banner.
The protest will be happening tomorrow at the Anaheim Convention Center, home to BlizzCon. Fighting for the Future says that supporters will be seen umbrellas, signs, gas masks and even in costume to support the ongoing protest movement in Hong Kong and protest Blizzard’s actions taken against those who have spoken out in favour of the Hong Kong protests.
On October 6, Blitzchung used the end of a winner’s interview for the Hearthstone Grandmasters Asia-Pacific Season 2 event to make the statement “Liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our age!” Shortly after this, players for American University showed a sign saying “Free Hong Kong, Boycott Blizz” during a Hearthstone Collegiate Championship broadcast.
Blizzard had initially banned Blitzchung from competition for a year and declared his prize money forfeit citing a rule regarding competitor behaviour that “brings [them] into public disrepute, offends a portion or group of the public, or otherwise damages [Blizzard’s] image.” However, Blizzard President J. Allen Brack issued a statement that the company had reconsidered its punishment and reduced the punishment to only a six-month ban and no lost prize money. The same punishment was then given to the American University players.
Blizzard isn’t the only company that has gotten into hot water over its relationship with China and subsequent actions influenced by its business ties with China. The NBA issued an apology over a tweet supporting the Hong Kong protests by Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey. Morey’s tweet was quickly deleted and he issued an apology. Apple was under fire for removing a map app related to the Hong Kong protests.
The controversy hasn’t gone unnoticed or unpunished. Players have been boycotting Blizzard, including cancelling subscriptions to World of Warcraft. There was an employee walkout. Five members of Congress sent a bi-partisan letter to Blizzard to condemn their actions. The Daily Beast reported that two days after the original ban of Blitzchung, Mitsubishi Motors Taiwan cancelled its sponsorship of Blizzard esports. No other sponsors have been reported to have pulled out of Blizzard’s competitive gaming scene which spans Hearthstone, StarCraft II, StarCraft: Brood War and Overwatch.
The prospect of a protest on this opening day of all days must be daunting to Blizzard. The cloud of controversy will darken this BlizzCon without additional attention brought by protest. It’s also the first BlizzCon after co-founder Mike Morhaime left the company entirely making this what seems to be a big turning point for the company. Rumours have indicated that Blizzard was going to make a number of big announcements after an underwhelming 2018 BlizzCon. This year’s BlizzCon is expected to include the official reveals of Overwatch 2 and Diablo 4 along with the launch dates for Diablo: Immortal (if you have phones) and the WarCraft 3 remaster.