What you need to know

  • Earlier this month, Blizzard banned professional Hearthstone player Blitzchung from competition after he voiced support for Hong Kong.
  • Protests are ongoing in Hong Kong as citizens fight to stay independent from the rest of the Chinese government.
  • After backlash, Blizzard reduced Blitzchung's ban to six months and restored his prize money.
  • U.S. lawmarkers have weighed in and penned a letter to Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick condemning these initial actions.

Blizzard's terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day month continues as U.S. congressional lawmakers have penned a letter addressed to Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick condemning the company's actions against professional Hearthstone player Blitzchung. Members from both parties, like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Marco Rubio, are among the lawmakers who signed the letter, which can be read in full.

The letter does not address Blitzchung's eventual reduced ban, but makes it clear that the initial actions Blizzard took against him were unacceptable.

We write to express our deep concerns about Activision Blizzard's decision to make player Ng Wai Chung forfeit his prize money and ban him from participating in tournaments for a year after he voiced support for pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong. This decision is particularly concerning in light of the Chinese government's growing appetite for pressuring American businesses to help stifle free speech.

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The letter notes that Congress is aware of Activision Blizzard sees to benefit from China's growing esports market. Tencent, one of the world's largest gaming companies based in China, has a stake in Activision Blizzard stocks and owns about 4% of shares.

Despite this, Activision Blizzard was adamant in its statement regarding the reduced ban that "the specific views expressed by blitzchung were NOT a factor in the decision we made... our relationships in China had no influence on our decision."

It remains to be seen how Kotick or Activision Blizzard will respond, if at all. The company recently cancelled an event that was supposed to take place in New York to promote Overwatch coming to Nintendo Switch, no doubt cancelled in light of the intense backlash Blizzard has received.