After a massive online outcry over Blizzard's removal of two shoutcasters and the year-long ban of a professional Hearthstone player who expressed his support for Hong Kong, President of Blizzard J. Allen Brack broke his silence.
The original punishment was a 12-month ban of the player in question, named Chung "Blitzchung" Ng Wai. Additionally, his prize money was originally forfeited. Now, Brack says they will revise their decision by lessening Blitzchung's ban to half a year and he will receive his prize money.
Brack expressed views over how Blizzard handled the situation:
Over the past few days, many players, casters, esports fans, and employees have expressed concerns about how we determine the penalties. We've had a chance to pause, top listen to our community, and to reflect on what we could have done better. In hindsight, our process wasn't adequate, and we reacted to quickly.
The six-month ban is citing the rules in place by Blizzard concerning tournament etiquette. Per Hearthstone Grandmasters Asia-Pacific rules, Section 6.1 states:
Engaging in any act that, in Blizzard’s sole discretion, brings you into public disrepute, offends a portion or group of the public, or otherwise damages Blizzard image will result in removal from Grandmasters and reduction of the player’s prize total to $0 USD, in addition to other remedies which may be provided for under the Handbook and Blizzard’s Website Terms.
The shoutcasters will receive a similar ban, lasting another half year. Curiously, American University Hearthstone Team received no punishment over their pro-Hong Kong statements, nor did Brack comment on this, despite falling under the same rules. This shows some inconsistencies of Blizzard rules from region to region. Neither did Brack comment on another controversy concerning a Blizzard/Netease post on Chinese social media site Weibo. Netease, which runs Blizzard China, professed they would "respect and defend the pride" of China.
At the time of publishing, reports have also stated that the company has not addressed employees, who staged a walkout earlier this week and covered multiple parts of the company's values statement, due to believing the actions were not in accordance with them. Additionally, Brian Kibler, who was originally scheduled to host the Hearthstone Grandmasters at Blizzcon, has not commented on Blizzard's statement after saying he would not host the event earlier this week.
Brack assures in his post that the company's relationship with China did not influence their ultimate decision, and closes that every player should feel "safe and welcome both competing in and playing" Blizzard games.
What are your thoughts on this punishment? Are they justified? Let us know in the comments below!