World of Warcraft and Hearthstone developer Blizzard faced harsh criticism for appeasing China from U.S senators on both sides of the aisle this week.
Recognize what’s happening here. People who don’t live in #China must either self censor or face dismissal & suspensions. China using access to market as leverage to crush free speech globally. Implications of this will be felt long after everyone in U.S. politics today is gone. https://t.co/Cx3tkWc7r6
— Marco Rubio (@marcorubio) October 8, 2019
“Recognize what’s happening here. People who don’t live in #China must either self censor or face dismissal & suspensions,” Rubio said, retweeting esports consultant Rod Breslau’s announcement of the now-infamous “Blitzchung” ban. “China using access to market as leverage to crush free speech globally. Implications of this will be felt long after everyone in U.S. politics today is gone.”
Blizzard shows it is willing to humiliate itself to please the Chinese Communist Party. No American company should censor calls for freedom to make a quick buck. https://t.co/rJBeXUiwYS
— Ron Wyden (@RonWyden) October 8, 2019
Hours later, Wyden echoed the sentiment. “Blizzard shows it is willing to humiliate itself to please the Chinese Communist Party,” he said. “No American company should censor calls for freedom to make a quick buck.”
The public has responded to this controversy in much the same way. As calls for a boycott spread like wildfire, Blizzard — of which communist-owned media conglomerate Tencent owns a 5% stake — continues to fall further from grace.
That same day, Blizzard’s official Chinese Hearthstone account made an official statement on the ruling via Chinese social media platform Weibo. A direct Google translation, validated by multiple users, reads:
We express our strong indignation and condemnation of the events in the Hearthstone Asia-Pacific competition last weekend and resolutely oppose the dissemination of personal political ideas in any event. The involved players will be banned and the relevant explanations will be immediately terminated by any official work. At the same time, we will, as always, resolutely safeguard national dignity.
Gods Unchained developers Immutable, who promised to reimburse Ng Wai Chung for his lost winnings in a public statement against Chinese censorship, has faced cyberattack by presently unidentified sources. Former Blizzard fans are expressing their opinion of the company on the r/Hearthstone subreddit, employing Photoshop and exhorting the community at large not to “let this die.”
And Blizzard is making it easy: Recently, the Dallas Morning News reported that “an assistant coach in Blizzard’s Overwatch League was instructed to delete a tweet criticizing Blizzard’s punishment.” Thus far, there is no indication that Blizzard has even considered backing down.