Blizzard Is 'Assessing' How To Proceed Following Hong Kong Controversy

Ng Wai-chung blitzchung

“Blitzchung” Ng Wai-chung

The controversy within the world of esports parallels a dispute playing out in the National Basketball Association, after a manager with the Houston Rockets caused an global outcry by tweeting, and then deleting, support for the protests in Hong Kong.

On Twitter, #Blizzardboycott and other similar hashtags began to trend.

Another said: "I'm disappointed".

Blizzard Entertainment has suspended a professional Hearthstone player for using a competition live stream to voice his in support of Hong Kong protesters.

Blizzard also seized Chung's earnings from the tournament, which amounted to $10,000.

Chinese tech behemoth Tencent owns 5% of Blizzard's parent, Activision Blizzard. As reported by Alpha Street (via Vox), after experiencing a steady decrease in monthly active users throughout 2018, the company is "taking the China route for regaining the lost strength", a path the outlet says is "currently followed by many American tech companies".

When the New York Times approached Blizzard for comment, they were told that "Mr. Chung had run afoul of a rule barring players from any act that "brings you into public disrepute, offends a portion or group of the public, or otherwise damages" the company's image". Shares of the company have gained ground since slumping earlier this week.

"Let's get back at Blizzard by making Mei a pro-democracy symbol!" reads a tweet which, at the time of writing, has had almost 6k retweets and 13k likes. With "World of Warcraft Classic" already on a decline, it appears that Blizzard has accelerated the demise of a game that would've at least lasted for a couple of years. This is true for World of Warcraft, Diablo, and the game that sparked this whole controversy, Hearthstone.

There are even hints of possible discontent within Blizzard.

Hearthstone alone generated $385 million in sales in 2018, a figure forecast to drop to just over $300 million this year.

In a tweet that has since been deleted, Justin "Jayne" Conroy, an assistant coach for the Dallas Fuel, accused Blizzard of "censorship" and draconian enforcement of its rules, according to a report from Tommy Magelssen of the Dallas Morning News. This is based on the belief that the country will react similarly to how they banned Winnie the Pooh after many mocked Chinese President Xi Jinping for resembling the silly old bear.

Analysts expect Call of Duty to generate $1.1 billion in revenue for Activision in the final three months of 2019, or more than 40% of its revenue in the key Christmas quarter.

The ongoing controversy is causing many to wonder where the major U.S. gaming companies stand on letting their players speak up about politics.

Support for the Hong Kong protests has seen backlash from China before, with the NBA's Houston Rockets having to apologise for general manager Daryl Morey's Twitter statement of "Fight for freedom, stand with Hong Kong".

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