Will Blizzard “Look Beyond the Bottom Line”?
Blizzard’s banning of Hearthstone player Blitzchung over pro-Hong Kong protestors comments has reached the United States Congress. In a letter to Blizzard, Senators Tom Cotton and Ron Wyden, and Members of Congress Mike Gallagher, Tom Malinowski, and Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez have asked Blizzard to rethink Chung “Blitzchung” Ng Wai’s ban.
The letter actively addresses the decision to make Chung forfeit his winnings and the year-long tournament. While Chung’s prize money has been returned, his ban was only reduced to 6 months. The letter states: “This decision is particularly concerning in light of the Chinese government’s growing appetite for pressuring American businesses to help stifle free speech.” They do note that China is a formidable market, and that its companies hold a lot of sway in the tech industry, but that China uses this to its advantage. In addition, the letter also brings up the targeting of Apple and an app that helped protestors avoid police.
“As China amplifies its campaign of intimidation, you and your company must decide whether to look beyond the bottom line and promote American values -like freedom of speech and thought- or to give into Beijing’s demands in order to preserved market access.” The letter states. “Because your company is such a pillar of the gaming industry, your disappointing decisions could have a chilling effect on gamers who seek to use their platform to promote human rights and basic freedoms.”
The letter closes with: “We urge you in the strongest terms to reconsider your decision with respect to Mr. Chung. You have the opportunity to reverse course. We urge you to take it.”
Congress clearly understands the pull Blizzard has on the gaming industry and culture as a whole. It’s almost unprecedented the effect that this ban has had not only on the gaming world but politics at large. With Blizzcon only a few weeks away and protests planned, it’ll be up to Blizzard to choose where it goes.