The hashtag #BlizzardBoycott is trending right now on Twitter due to the company's recent actions following a Hearthstone tournament in China. The World of Warcraft developer has a large following in China, which has been undergoing numerous protests and marches over the past few months in response to the communist government's control and treatment of Hong Kong.
Recently, China banned South Park from airing in their country after an episode which not only depicted prisoners being abused while under the Chinese government's watch but also featured Winnie the Pooh, who is already banned there due to a supposed resemblance between the cartoon creature and China's President Xi Jinping. With the United States government currently undergoing a trade war with the country which could increase PlayStation prices and China just today announcing they will begin restricting visas from people employed by certain human rights organizations, tensions between the communist government and everyone else has, lately, only continued to rise.
#BlizzardBoycott is trending because, according to BusinessInsider, after a recent officially-broadcasted Asia-Pacific Grandmasters Hearthstone tournament the winner, Chung Ng Wai, was being interviewed after the game and shouted "Liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our age" right before the broadcast ended. In response to this, Blizzard rescinded the prize money Chung Ng Wai won and banned him from participating in future Hearthstone tournaments for at least a year, saying that his comments were harmful to the company. This sparked outrage among Heathstone fans around the world, leading to so many angry messages Blizzard's community Reddit thread was later set to private.
As displayed in the above tweet, last night American University players held up a "Free Hong Kong, Boycott Blizzard" sign after the match was over in an apparent show of solidarity, prompting Blizzard to quickly cut away to the other team. Although Blizzard itself is an American company, the umbrella organization Activision Blizzard which oversees it is partially owned by Tencent, the China-based largest video game publisher in the world. Worth noting is that clearly not everyone who works at Blizzard agrees with the company's decision, some going as far as to cover up the "Think Globally" and "Every Voice Matters" company values which are usually on display. Blizzard's actions have not only concerned fans and employees but politicians as well, with American Senator Ron Wyden saying "Blizzard shows it is willing to humiliate itself to please the Chinese Communist Party."
This has all been a very bad look for Blizzard, who just recently gained goodwill by announcing two new playable races in World of Warcraft. Although it's doubtful the company will reverse their decision and give Chung Ng Wai the prize money he deserves, it will be interesting to see how Hearthstone tournaments are handled in the future if #BlizzardBoycott remains trending and protests continue to happen.