Blizzard chose to open BlizzCon 2019 in something that could've been deemed a classy move, choosing to apologize for the way it treated blitzchung, the Hearthstone pro who was severely punished for exercising his right to free speech on a livestream - but then dropped the ball by failing to mention Hong Kong or China even once. Blizzard has been under fire for the way it has approached the Hong Kong protests ever since it chose to support what many believed to be the outright censorship of its games' professionals' ability to speak.
While Blizzard already walked back some of the punishment it delivered to blitzchung - and the pro player even graciously accepted the new terms on his Twitter - fans were left extremely dissatisfied by the results. Blizzard never took ownership of its actions or indicated that it felt that censoring pro-Hong Kong sentiment was wrong in any way - just the treatment of the player who expressed those views. United States politicians joined together to write an open letter lambasting the company's treatment of the situation, and a major Blizzard esports partner walked away when Mitsubishi Motors ended its long-time support of Blizzard's esports programs.
When Blizzard opened BlizzCon 2019 with president J. Allen Brack on stage addressing the slip-up with its Hearthstone program, it seemed like the beginning of an unexpected apology that would finally address the situation properly. Instead, it was a weird half-apology where Brack stated that the company needs to do better about maintaining the "high standards" it has set for itself, and that he accepted accountability for the actions. Not once did Brack or anyone else mention exactly where the argument stemmed from, and Hong Kong or China went completely ignored. Viewers who were unfamiliar with the incident likely didn't even know it was about Hong Kong at all. Here's how Twitch responded, courtesy of esports analyst Slasher:
It was a missed opportunity, and one that hasn't gone unnoticed by fans, who were very quick to criticize the fact that the apology didn't really state much. It set the tone for BlizzCon 2019 as a stage where Blizzard will continue to ignore the greater parts of the issues fans have had with its treatment of politics. Brack also did not change any part of blitzchung's suspension, either, continuing to sentence the pro to his six month suspension.
While BlizzCon 2019 is going to be exciting for fans of the company and its beloved properties, the tone has been set, for better - or, much more likely - worse. Perhaps Blizzard will surprise with something more focused during its Hearthstone streams this weekend, but fans probably shouldn't hold their breath.