Blizzard's latest controversial stance comes from its Hearthstone Masters Tour livestream on Twitch this weekend, which began today and has already seen viewers receiving 24-hour chat bans for typing "Free Hong Kong" into chat during the broadcast. Blizzard has come under fire for what many believe to be a clear prioritization of profit over player freedom, an issue that first stemmed from the company's treatment of Hearthstone pro player blitzchung.
In the case of blitzchung, the Chinese pro player was heavily penalized for using the time allotted for his winner's interview during one of the Hearthstone Grandmasters weekly matches to support the protests currently ongoing in Hong Kong. The casters conducting the interview notably ducked under their desks while blitzchung made his statement, clearly attempting to disengage from the sentiment, but that didn't save them, as all three people on camera were harshly punished by Blizzard. While blitzchung's revoked prize money has since been awarded back to him and his one year suspension reduced to six months, the treatment sparked outrage across the gaming community, which felt that Blizzard was attempting to protect its investment in the Chinese video game market at the expense of its players and fans.
Since then, the community has clashed with Blizzard several times over the same subject, with Blizzard's recent cancellation of a New York media event meant to help launch Overwatch on the Switch another example of the company's unwillingness to entertain the possibility of public protests. Now, a report from Dot Esports indicates that it's spilled over into the Hearthstone Masters Tour Bucharest stream that began today, with viewers who type "Free Hong Kong" into chat instantly receiving 24-hour chat restrictions from the PlayHearthstone Twitch channel. Many users have also reported that Blizzard is aggressively censoring any pro-China statements in general, with messages getting deleted frequently.
It's another major PR disaster for Blizzard, which has been seemingly unable to generate anything other than public backlash over the last few weeks. Censoring Twitch viewers over expressing opinions on the situation in China is a bad look, but it's in line with what the company has essentially been telling fans through its actions up until this point - that there's basically a zero-tolerance policy for political expression on its public platforms. It's worth noting that Blizzard employees have staged a walkout and also expressed discontent over the company's stance at large, so there's still a chance for these policies to change thanks to internal and external pressures - but it seems like that won't be happening given how much time Blizzard has had to reverse its policies up to now.
Blizzard is swiftly approaching the point of no return for its policies, too - BlizzCon is swiftly approaching, and in just a few short weeks, the company will be hosting what amounts to one of the largest public forums for fans to express their opinion each year. BlizzCon has been the site of resentment before, but that was mostly related to video games like Diablo Immortal. The controversy this year is much larger and broader than just one video game, and it's going to be an extremely intriguing build-up to what could be the defining moment for one of the industry's biggest developers.
Source: Dot Esports