On Friday 12th October, around midnight, Blizzard Entertainment finally released its statement regarding the Blitzchung Hearthstone ban.
The statement attempted to explain away the company’s actions by invoking the company’s core values: Think Globally; Lead Responsibly; and Every Voice Matters. The full statement is available on Blizzard’s website, and we’d recommend you give it a read.
In the statement, the bans of both Blitzchung and the two casters were reduced to 6 months, and Blitzchung’s prize money will be returned to him. The casters apparently didn’t keep the conversation on topic, and should have ‘ensured [their] official broadcasts remain focused on the game and are not a platform for divisive social or political views’.
According to the statement, the goal is to ‘make sure every player, everywhere in the world, regardless of political views, religious beliefs, race, gender, or any other consideration always feels safe and welcome both competing in and playing our games.’ Unfortunately, Blizzard’s recent actions strongly indicate that it does not understand how to actually make this happen. Sitting on the fence on issues like this, especially when one party is actively repressing the free speech of another, does not make a welcoming and safe community. Instead, it sets the precedent of self-censorship and evades any and all potentially contentious issues.
Many found the claim 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’ very hard to believe.
’If this had been the opposing viewpoint delivered in the same divisive and deliberate way, we would have felt and acted the same,’ claimed Blizzard. Of course, this issue is not one you can claim ‘both sides’ on, and it’s impossible to prove the company would have acted differently were the issue not the same. We’ll have to see if anyone else is able to stand up for a cause, but with Blizzard’s response it looks unlikely.
In response to the statement, Blitzchung posted a TwitLonger in both Chinese and English in which the suspended Grandmaster addressed the support he received and the response from Blizzard.
According to Blitzchung, six months is still an excessive ban for his actions. He mentioned it’d be tough to decide whether or not he’d remain in the competitive Hearthstone scene.
We’ll see in due time whether he’ll continue competing. It’s unlikely Blizzard will comment further, and it appears it’s putting this issue to bed and trying to move on.