Video game publisher Blizzard has reignited the controversy surrounding its decision to ban professional Hearthstone player blitzchung from Hearthstone tournaments at its annual gaming convention – Blizzcon 2019.
The event opened with president J.Allen Brack taking to the stage and apologizing for moving “too quickly” and being “slow to talk” when banning blitzchung for showing his support for the pro-democracy Hong Kong protestors.
Blizzard President J. Allen Brack addresses his and the company's role in penalizing Hong Kong pro Hearthstone player blitzchung
"We didn't live up to the standards we set for ourselves. We failed in our purpose. And for that, I'm sorry, and I accept accountability" pic.twitter.com/Ud5U7XLV6A
— Rod 'keydaddy' Breslau (@Slasher) November 1, 2019
Within minutes of making the speech, Brack was slammed for the “empty,” “non-apology,” which despite being about the banning of blitzchung and the ensuing controversy where Blizzard was accused of acting to appease the communist Chinese government, contains no mention of blitzchung, China, or Hong Kong.
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Why the fuck are people cheering for this?
This is not an apology. Once again, just like in the original statement Blizzard made, they're not apologizing for punishing Blitzchung, they're apologizing for "moving too quickly," and taking too long to make an official statement. https://t.co/lleT6cCUpM
— 𝗣𝗹𝗲𝗮𝘀𝗲 𝗚𝗼𝗱 𝗞𝗼𝗙𝗫𝗩 𝗯𝗲 𝗴𝗼𝗼𝗱. (@HBJohnXuandou) November 1, 2019
The important takeaway from how Blizzard started BlizzCon today is not that someone "apologized," but that it was an empty apology with no change in Blizzard's stance, empty words about how it originally fucked up. Blitzchung is still banned. https://t.co/cRWS9eVpTm
— Patrick Klepek (@patrickklepek) November 1, 2019
This was not an apology.
An apology means taking responsibility for your actions and explaining how you are going to do better.
This was a carefully scripted, but meaningless PR statement.
— Fight for the Future (@fightfortheftr) November 1, 2019
Brack’s speech comes less than a month after Blizzard drew similar ire for its previous statement on the blitzchung ban where it said: “China had no influence on our decision.” Many gamers were skeptical of the claim and the denial drew further backlash against the company.
It also comes just a few days after some Blizzard employees said they were dreading Blizzcon and can’t wait for it to be over. Some of these employees said that Blizzcon is usually a positive experience for them but their concerns over protests had “poisoned” their anticipation for the event.