Over the course of the past few weeks, Activision Blizzard, creators of games such as Overwatch and World of Warcraft, have been subject to accusations of selling out to Chinese censorship and self interest after esports player Chung ‘Blitzchung’ Ng Wai spoke out against the Chinese Government over the protests in Hong Kong.This led to him receiving a year-long ban from competition and withdrawal of prize money.
Recent developments have seen the company retract their stance, giving Blitzchung his prize money back and reducing the ban to six months, detailed in a statement issued by company President J. Allen Brack. In this statement, Brack highlights that, “[t]he 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.”
“[w]e 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”
J. Allen Brack, President of Blizzard Entertainment
He goes on to state, “[w]e 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”, and that, “our process wasn’t adequate, and we reacted too quickly.”
Perhaps this statement comes too late - in response to the company’s actions, fans have begun a boycott and turned Overwatch character Mei into a symbol of Hong Kong independence, angering the Chinese state. With stocks falling, this statement has been perceived by many as damage control to protect the company’s profits rather than address the real issue: freedom of speech.
With the growing influence of China in the gaming community, many have been left anxious as to where companies’ allegiances lie – with their fans or their profit margins.