Blizzard has finally issued its offical response to the ongoing China controversy, but players aren't buying it. Fans began rallying against Blizzard after the company confirmed that it would be stripping Asia-Pacific Grandmasters Hearthstone tournament winner, Chung Ng Wai, of his prize money and banning him for a year. This came as a result of the player making comments about supporting the liberation of Hong Kong during a recent company-sanctioned livestream.
Gamers from all walks have spoken out about how displeased they are with the game developer, even going so far as to get '#BoycottBlizzard' trending on Twitter. Epic Games even chimed in to confirm that it would never ban players for voicing their political opinions. Suffice it to say, the entire ordeal is nothing short of a PR nightmare for the company. After a week of silence, Blizzard has finally issued a statement on the issue.
The President of Blizzard Entertainment, J. Allen Brack, took to the developer's website to issue an offical statement in an attempt to clear the air. In it, Brack walked back the penalties given to the broadcasters (who were both originally suspended for a year) and Chung 'blitzchung' Ng Wai. The ban for the broadcasts has been reduced to six months, while blitzchung will have his prize money restored and his competitive ban will be reduced to six months.
While this is a step in the right direction, Brack's comments about why Blizzard was standing by its revised decision isn't holding much water with fans. Namely, the comments about how Blizzard's business relationships in China had no impact on the ruling.
"The specific views expressed by blitzchung were NOT a factor in the decision we made. I want to be clear: our relationships in China had no influence on our decision. We have these rules to keep the focus on the game and on the tournament to the benefit of a global audience, and that was the only consideration in the actions we took. If this had been the opposing viewpoint delivered in the same divisive and deliberate way, we would have felt and acted the same."
A Twitter user by the name of Andy Borjas highlighted Blizzard's initial reponse to Chinese viewers in the wake of blitzchung's polticial comments. The sign-off on the official statement? "We will always respect and defend the pride of our country." That sort of language makes Brack's comments a lot harder to swallow.
With BlizzCon set to start in just a few short weeks, Blizzard had to attempt to get consumers back on its side. Truth be told, it doesn't look like everything that has happened is water under the bridge, but a statement had to be made sooner rather than later. As of this writing, the replies to Blizzard's statement are less than stellar, which would indicate that gamers aren't buying the reasoning presented.
Until a bigger gesture is made by Blizzard, it's unlikely that the controversy will die down anytime soon.