At Blizzcon 2019, Blizzard apologizes for poor handling of Hearthstone's Hong Kong protesters

The developer behind Overwatch, Diablo and Hearthstone is under fire for its handling of the Hong Kong protests.

Ian Sherr Contributor and Former Editor at Large / News
Ian Sherr (he/him/his) grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area, so he's always had a connection to the tech world. As an editor at large at CNET, he wrote about Apple, Microsoft, VR, video games and internet troubles. Aside from writing, he tinkers with tech at home, is a longtime fencer -- the kind with swords -- and began woodworking during the pandemic.
Ian Sherr
2 min read
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Blizzard got a chilly response to its banning of Hearthstone player Blitzchung.

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Blizzard Entertainment has been facing a month of criticism following its handling of a Hong Kong protest sympathizer, who it initially banned from competition after he appeared on camera wearing a mask similar to the protesters' and said "Liberate Hong Kong!"

On Friday, Blizzard president J. Allen Brack opened the company's annual Blizzcon fan event by apologizing for the company's handling of the controversy, and making a promise it will do better.

"Blizzard had an opportunity to bring the world together in a tough Hearthstone e-sports moment about a month ago," said Brack, in a statement as the event began. He said the company moved too quickly when it punished the protester, named Blitzchung, and it was too slow to explain its decisions to the fans.

"We didn't live up to the high standards that we really set for ourselves," he added. "For that, I am sorry, and accept accountability."

Brack's comments come as Blizzard attempts to move past the controversy that's enveloped the company. Following Blizzard's early moves, critics complained that it was acting more on behalf of Tencent, the massive Chinese company that owns 5% of Activision Blizzard. Blizzard denied its relationship with China had anything to do with the decision to ban the Hong Kong sympathizer (even though a statement posted on Blizzard's official Weibo account appeared to contradict that, and some employees staged a walkout over it too).

In an effort to acknowledge protesters at Blizzcon, Brack said he hoped "it's clear how committed we are to everyone's right to express themselves in all kinds of ways and in all kinds of places. We've actually seen and heard many of you express yourself this morning."

The company also used the event to announce updates for its 15-year-old World of Warcraft and a new installment in its Diablo dungeon-hunting series, Diablo 4.

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