I have been following the controversy
surrounding Blizzard's 12-month ban of Blitzchung, a Hearthstone pro player, for shouting a pro-Hong Kong protest slogan while being interviewed on stream at the Hearthstone Asia-Pacific Grandmasters tournament.
I learned from a Hearthstone reddit post
that Blizzard's Chinese partner issued an apology on Weibo (Chinese Twitter equivalent) to the Chinese people shortly after the ban. (From what I understand, companies do not get to sell games in China directly. They must partner with a Chinese company, who licenses it for a fee from the game company and operates the game on behalf of them. This is also how FFXIV is run in China.)
It says, "We are very angered and disappointed at what happened at the event and do not condone it in any way. We also highly object the spreading of personal political beliefs in this manner. Effective immediately we've banned the contestant from events and terminated work with the broadcasters. We will always respect and defend the pride of our country."
This further shows Blizzard's - or at least its local partner's - urgent desire to placate the Chinese people and avoid criticism by the PRC government.
Finally, on Friday U.S. time, Blizzard responded to the controversy. The timing of the announcement is deliberate and calculated. When organizations have to release news that is potentially damaging, they release it on Friday because the public generally engages less with the news over the weekend. They are already aware that their response will not be received warmly.
You can read Blizzard's official response
To me, the important points are:
* Blitzchung and casters' bans reduced to 6 months
* Blitzchung allowed to keep his prize money
* No apology or admission of guilt
Blizzard claimed that "our relationships in China had no influence on our decision", yet it is hard to see how this could be the case given the above Weibo statement.
The closest Blizzard came to an admission of guilt was saying "In hindsight, our process wasn’t adequate, and we reacted too quickly." No apology was issued to Blitzchung or the casters.
What stands out to me are how often Blizzard repeated its value statements ( Think Globally, Lead Responsibly, Every Voice Matters) and used common buzzwords (inclusive, diverse, safe, welcome, etc.) throughout the statement. I feel Blizzard is trying to divert attention away from its actions, and remind the reader of liberal values that it claims to champion. Yet, it is impossible to see how Blizzard's value statements - especially "Every Voice Matters" - agree with its actions in defense of a foreign government with a deplorable human rights record.
Ultimately, like all publicly traded companies, I believe the only value that matters to Blizzard is money. It is willing to exploit liberal values and social justice for profit and reputational benefit, but will abandon those values at the drop of a hat for profit. I hope that this controversy damages Blizzard's bottom line in some way.
Few figures within the various Blizzard communities (streamers, casters, pro players etc.) have spoken up against Blizzard's actions. It seems to be mainly the fans who are protesting. Max Yu, a StarCraft 2 blogger, wrote a post analyzing Blizzard's response
in more detail. His post goes into the background of the Hong Kong protests, for those who are unfamiliar with the brutal actions of the PRC/HK government.