More Fallout From The Hong Kong Protests Hitting eSports

from the not-going-away dept

We were just discussing how the NBA and Blizzard each responded to the thin-skinned Chinese government’s pressure on each in the wake of statements made supporting the Hong Kong protests that have raged for months now. The Blizzard half of that conversation involved the company yanking prize money and issuing a 1 year ban on a Hearthstone champion going by the handle Blitzchung, who stated support for the protests to sign off of a recent stream — which, Blizzard claims, violated contest rules. The backlash to Blizzard’s decision, was swift and severe. Unlike the NBA, which backtracked on its own appeasing comments to the Chinese government, Blizzard hasn’t budged an inch.

The fallout is continuing, if not intensifying. Most recently, famed streamer Brian Kibler quit Hearthstone entirely over Blizzard’s decision.

Kibler, 39, is a widely-respected Magic: The Gathering player who, in 2010, was inducted into Magic’s Hall of Fame. Over the last couple years, Kibler amassed a 500,000-person following on Twitch streaming Blizzard’s Hearthstone, which he casts in an official capacity for Blizzard.

“I certainly never expected that my position in the Hearthstone community would lead to me making a statement on sensitive topics regarding international relations,” Kibler wrote today, “but I have always viewed my strange place as a public figure in gaming as an opportunity to try to make the world a better place in whatever way I can, so here we are.”

He went on to state that he refused to smile on camera for a company that was taking such heavy-handed actions against his fellow streamer. It’s not that Kibler himself is so big a figure that this will rock the Hearthstone world, though there is some truth to that. It’s, frankly, the speed at which this is happening. It seems nearly inevitable that Kibler won’t be the last to take such a step, particularly given some of the surrounding backlash Blizzard is receiving both internally and externally to its actions.

Kibler’s statement joins a chorus of backlash against Blizzard’s decision. The Blizzard subreddit shuttered yesterday, full of complaints from players—some of whom pledged to quit the game entirely. At Blizzard’s headquarters, where it proudly displays company values like “lead responsibly” and “learn & grow,” a big piece of paper covered up the values “think globally” and “every voice matters” apparently in protest of Chung’s ban. Also at Blizzard yesterday, some employees staged an “Umbrella Protest” against the ban.

This simply isn’t going away. Blizzard needs to say something, if not do something, to quell this ongoing backlash. Thus far, it has essentially chosen to sit back and wait this out. That doesn’t appear to be a strategy that is going to work.

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Companies: blizzard

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Comments on “More Fallout From The Hong Kong Protests Hitting eSports”

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79 Comments
That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Everyone wants to control their image, spin the narrative.
To make it in China, you have to play by China’s rules.
At first it was little things (no skeletons in MTG sets for China as that offends people) & other small concessions.

Then the asks got a little bit bigger, but nothing to far.
Now that you are fully plugged in and wanting the cash the market offers, now you sell your soul to keep getting paid.

In France, someone in government does something dumb & people riot demanding change.

In China, no one gets to complain, no one gets to demand change, & they will not tolerate even a whiff of complaints fearing it will spur political overthrow.

The brands give in b/c well they exist to make money & can’t think beyond the next check. Eurovision banned China from airing the show after they edited sections out. There was no fear about loss of the pay day, they were angry that "gay" content (which wasn’t that over the top) was censored out. Hell even Russia lets the content air & they are still actively gathering people & killing them for the ‘crime’ of being gay.

People are far to used to brands standing up for things…

10 million moms (3 wacky chicks & a purse dog) threatened to boycott all sorts of brands for promoting teh gay, most of the brands were worried then realized its better to not give in to a few people demanding to control everything to make themselves happy in denying reality.

They overlook brands doing what they do not what they say…

Hobby Lobby, birth control is evil!! But hey our pension fund is heavily invested in it oh and we fund terrorists to steal artifacts for us. But a whole bunch of moral crusaders still support them.

Perhaps it is time to admit that corporate people aren’t real people. They hold no opinions or morals. They want to get paid & the new market paying them matters more than you who paid for their new shiny stadiums. For every person yelling they are leaving Blizz, there is a nation with 10 people for every 1 of us who can replace your revenue stream.

But hey Blizzard shutting down the ability for people to leave & hastily demanding governmental IDs to be allowed to shut your account down is just them hedging their bet that you’ll forget you were going to quit if they make it take long enough. Think I am wrong?? Notice beating your wife in the NFL still has a way lesser punishment than failing a test for pot.

anonymouse says:

Re: Re: Re:

MTG is a Wizards of the Coast aka Hasbro property. Their cards are rationalized for both language and artwork since the beginning and has not stopped the fan-base wanting cards from other regions.

Activision-Blizzard’s property World of Warcraft aka WoW is where they regionalized the character models for their rotting undead corpse race aka The Forsaken by showing less bone and more gore.

I know that those outside the fandom have a hard time knowing who is who but please keep your evil corporate empires straight. 😉

nasch (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Neither is excusable, but one is at least potentially a factually demonstrable issue. I say potentially because it seems very likely to me that any country outlawing gay sex would not be overly concerned with the quality of evidence or due process in general. However, "being gay" is a different kind of claim. It is about something that happens exclusively inside a person’s mind, which should never be outlawed or regulated.

Yes, I know about "intent" in the law, but that only applies to an illegal act. One can never (in a civilized jurisdiction) be tried solely for intent, with no accompanying action.

In case it is necessary, I will once again point out that both are abhorrent, I am just pointing out that the two are problematic in different ways.

asmaloney (profile) says:

Blizzard also making it difficult to delete accounts

If you go to their page to delete your account it says that they may require a government issue photo ID.

They do require it. They have removed all other ways to communicate with them. You can’t even login and submit a support ticket without it. The callback and live chat options are disabled.

I don’t know how an ID is going to help verify anything since they don’t have full names and email addresses for these accounts (in all cases).

This appears to be a way to try to stop the bleeding for their shareholders’ benefit.

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Optimus Average says:

Re: "asmaloney" ZOMBIE SEVEN YEAR GAP!

Not the only this week, but the most obvious.

Just as usual, pops from out of the blue into a Timmy piece.

SEVEN YEARS. No hint was gone, no mention of the password reset.

Cannot be explained except as astro-turfing. -i- Go on, TRY to state some other explanation!

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: "asmaloney" ZOMBIE SEVEN YEAR GAP!

"I’ve been a reader here for a very long time"

Then you should be at least passingly familiar with this moron and his tendency to attack people or invent grand conspiracies when he has nothing to address regarding the actual article. This par for the course.

Always good to have a commenter with something to actually say, though, welcome!

asmaloney (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 "asmaloney" ZOMBIE SEVEN YEAR GAP!

Thanks Paul!

Then you should be at least passingly familiar with this moron…

Actually I don’t usually read comments on articles either (here or anywhere really) 🙂

This person is a great example of why – and I got it on my first try!

There’s too much garbage to sort through & I have better things to do – like reading a book, going for a walk, or having coffee with a friend.

Happy Thanksgiving from Canada!

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This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
That One Guy (profile) says:

Ah to be a fly on that wall...

I can only imagine how utterly stunned the higher ups have been over this whole thing. ‘All we did was give the boot to three people to appease China, what’s everyone upset about?!’

In their eagerness to grovel to china and show how much of a ‘team player’ they are they took what would have been a minor incident with one player and turned it into an international incident.

If only there was a term for something like that…

anonymouse says:

Re: Re: Ah to be a fly on that wall...

But that is the thing with the Executives there. They are all about the new money and don’t give half a farthing for what their client base wants or thinks.

Sadly the original people who made the Blizzard what it was are no longer there and what is there now is the same infestation affecting nearly all large corporate organizations. Their clients of import are the executives closely followed by the investors. The actual customers who give them money for products or services are just an exploitable commodity.

As for China as a market, I am not sure what any executive types are thinking since, as far as I know and I could be very wrong on this, China does not allow Capital to flow out of the country, only goods.

nasch (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Ah to be a fly on that wall...

China does not allow Capital to flow out of the country, only goods.

I don’t think anyone would be interested in doing business in China if they could never get any of the money out.

"There are several ways to repatriate profits from China."

https://www.china-briefing.com/news/profit-repatriation-from-china/

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Stephen T. Stone (profile) says:

Another lovely side effect of this: Blizzard found itself in a no-win situation when a second set of Hearthstone players held up a pro-Hong Kong sign on an official Blizzard stream. If the company punished those players, it would make the firestorm worse; if it didn’t punish them, Blizzard would look like hypocrites.

Blizzard chose the second path. For that choice, it got exactly what it deserved: The three players dropped out of the following match and the tournament as a whole. In doing so, the team specifically pointed out the hypocrisy of Blizzard’s decision. Maybe they didn’t intend to do pull off a power move for the ages. But they damn well did it, and Blizzard looks all the worse for it.

And even though Blizzard reduced its penalties for Blitzchung and the commentators (Blitzchung will receive his prize money and everyone’s suspensions will now run six months), I doubt that will stop several protests now planned for BlizzCon.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Of all the things they could have said to try to excuse their actions, you’d think someone would have realized that such a blatant lie like that would not be the correct one.

Hell, their own social media post in China made it very clear such a statement is a lie, it’s like they are completely unaware that there are such a thing as bi-lingual people and/or translators out there…

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Anonymous Coward says:

The most damning thing is an earlier statement from Blizzards Weibo account, which is basically a direct contradiction of the official English statement they made friday (source: IGN):

“We express our strong indignation [or resentment] and condemnation of the events that occurred in the Hearthstone Asia Pacific competition last weekend and absolutely oppose the dissemination of personal political ideas during any events [or games]. The players involved will be banned, and the commentators involved will be immediately terminated from any official business. Also, we will protect [or safeguard] our national dignity [or honor].”

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Anonymous Coward says:

"Thin skinned Chinese government"? You mean the brutal communist dictators that imprison political opponents, kill them, and then sell their organs for a profit? Really? Thin skinned?

The NBA Backtracked? Really? The NBA is a slave to Nike, who only cares about how many shoes they will sell to China. Disgusting globalist assholes, Nike, just like that disgusting asshole Kappernick.

Do the Chinese pay you for this shit, or do you hate America and love China because you’re just fucking stupid?

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Stephen T. Stone (profile) says:

Re:

Techdirt criticizes China, and you think that means the site is paid by China? That logic makes no sense. And yes, a government that can’t accept any criticism from anyone — least of all an employee of a foreign corporation — lacks the thick skin you think would come with being “brutal dictators”.

Also, how the hell is Colin Kaepernick a “globalist”? He isn’t Jewish.

This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

"Anti-American"

The guy refused to participate in a pointless ritual that’s not necessary to his employment as a private citizen, in order to protest what he believes to be a failure in his government with minimal disruption.

That sounds to me to be a lot more in line with American values than mindlessly following orders and refusing to exercise freedom of speech in fear of retaliation.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Stephen T. Stone (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2

a pointless ritual

Really can’t stress that enough; other than a game/competition between international teams/competitors, possibly on foreign soil, no U.S. sporting event requires the national anthem be played before it. If anything, the anthem being played before a sporting event between two American teams/competitors comes off more as forced patriotism — that is, anyone who doesn’t stand or take their hat off or whatever isn’t sufficiently “patriotic”.

But as you pointed out, Kaepernick demonstrated true patriotism by using his freedoms to protest against police brutality, even knowing that it could cost him dearly. Patriotism isn’t “my country, right or wrong” — it’s “if right, to be kept right; if wrong, to be set right”.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

" Kaepernick demonstrated true patriotism"

Kaepernick took advantage of a wold stage that his job happened to give him to make a political statement while at work that got him fired. There were plenty of other ways for him to make the same statement without creating the shit storm he created. He made the bed he laid in.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Re:

"There were plenty of other ways for him to make the same statement without creating the shit storm he created"

The man made a silent, non-violent protest without disrupting a moment of the unnecessary ritual he was refusing to participate in… but right-wing morons lost their collective shit. How could he have possibly protested without the same reaction?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Re:

"Kaepernick took advantage of a wold stage that his job happened to give him to make a political statement while at work that got him fired."

  • This, however, is common practice among those afforded such luxuries (read hypocrites). Do not tell me that is their job, and it is certainly not more important that serving their constituents needs.

"There were plenty of other ways for him to make the same statement without creating the shit storm he created. "

  • Who knew there were so many irate hypocrite shit storm creators out there.

"He made the bed he laid in."

  • He made the bed that you set on fire, so he must jump in it?
That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: One pebble is insignificant. Ten or a hundred thousand though...

Not that my action will mean much, but maybe Blizzard will see an downward trend in their user base.

On an individual basis boycotting/quitting isn’t likely to impact the company pretty much at all, true, but boycotts are made up of many individuals who are willing to take those steps, so looked at through that lens it’s still a good and effective choice as many cases of ‘not going to do much’ can all-too-quickly add up to ‘more effective than you might think’.

TFG says:

Re: Re: One pebble is insignificant. Ten or a hundred thousand thoug

A Bug’s Life demonstrates this point quite well. Remember Hopper and his cronies at their cantina? "We don’t need to go back. What’s one little ant?"

An avalanche of seeds, aka the whole colony, then buries the complainers.

Group action is effective. If you’re not going to participate, that’s fine – but please don’t try to bring everybody else down with you.

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