Over the weekend, video game publisher Blizzard banned professional Hearthstone player Ng Wai “blitzchung” Chung from the 2019 Hearthstone Grandmasters Official Competition after he showed support for the Hong Kong protests in an interview. The move was seen as an example of yet another US company bending the knee to China and led to heavy criticism and a mass boycott. Now Blizzard users who are attempting to participate in the boycott by closing their accounts are reporting that Blizzard has disabled all authentication and is preventing them from deleting their accounts.
Multiple Blizzard users are saying that when they try to close their account or request a copy of their personal data, they’re being presented with a message that reads: “Due to too many attempts. [Authentication method] has been locked. Please try another method for verification.”
Some of these users are also suggesting that Blizzard is doing this intentionally to stop people from closing their accounts or canceling subscriptions as the boycott against the company ramps up.
Other users have proposed an alternate theory – that Blizzard’s systems have been overloaded by mass account closure and data requests in the midst of the boycott.
Regardless, the development is likely to add to the growing backlash the company has faced since banning blitzchung. In addition to the mass boycott, members of the Hearthstone community have proposed flooding Blizzard with General Data Protection Requirement (GDPR) requests and two US senators have called out the company.
Blizzard employees have also reportedly walked out to protest the company’s ban of Blitzchung. And an American University team has protested by holding up a “Free Hong Kong, boycott Blizzard” sign during the Hearthstone Collegiate Championship.
Epic Games has also weighed in on Blizzard’s decision and said that unlike Blizzard, it won’t censor for China. However, given that Chinese conglomerate Tencent owns a 40 percent stake in the company, it remains to be seen whether it will follow through when tested on this principle.