Chinese spectators in front of a Blizzard display stage at the China Digital Entertainment Expo & Conference, China Joy 2019, in Shanghai on August 2 Photo: VCG

US gaming company Blizzard is winning more support among Chinese players and netizens after the firm announced it would punish an e-sports player who voiced support for the Hong Kong riots at a company-sponsored tournament.  

Chinese netizens said the video game company has taught its peers, such as the National Basketball Association (NBA), a lesson about how to be responsible in the Chinese market, instead of displaying Western arrogance and applying double standards when it comes to defending freedom of speech.

Blizzard, one of the largest video game companies in the US, publishes popular games such as World of Warcraft and Hearthstone. It announced on its official blog on Tuesday that it would withhold the prize money for Hong Kong player Blitzchung and would ban him from Hearthstone competitions for a year beginning October 5. 

The punishment came after Blitzchung donned a gas mask and shouted radical slogans in support of the Hong Kong riots at a post-game interview of Hearthstone’s October 6 Asia-Pacific Grandmasters tournament. 

Two broadcasters from the island of Taiwan showed support for Blitzchung’s behavior, encouraging him to finish the anti-government slogan and speak clearly. They applauded after Blitzchung had ended his call. 

Blizzard also terminated its contracts with the two broadcasters. 

“While we stand by one’s right to express one’s thoughts and opinions, players who join our e-sports competitions must abide by the official competition rules,” read the statement Blizzard issued. 

When contacted by the Global Times on questions regarding its stance on Hong Kong issues on Wednesday, an employee of a joint venture (JV) between Blizzard and Chinese gaming company Netease said the JV is “undergoing internal discussions on the matter due to the sensitivity of the issue.” 

 Blizzard’s penalties on the anti-Hong Kong government player have been praised on Chinese social media platforms, with some saying that the US firm made a “right decision” and did not let Chinese e-sports players down. 

“Well done, Blizzard! And I will promote your games to more friends,” said Weibo user Youyou.

Another Hearthstone player, 25, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told the Global Times that he will “reward” Blizzard with more money and more purchases. 

“Blizzard showed foreign firms the right values and respect for Chinese consumers. The company is worthy of my long-term support,” players said. 

Blizzard’s actions were being compared with those of the NBA on social media platforms. The NBA’s businesses in China are now on the brink of collapse due to its reluctance to punish Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey, who tweeted in support of the Hong Kong riots. Both organizations have made considerable profits from China, one of their most important overseas markets.

“This is a world of difference: The NBA only shows Western arrogance and double standards in how they treat the Chinese, while Blizzard respects the sentiments of Chinese people and China’s territorial integrity,” Liu Dingding, a Beijing-based industry analyst, told the Global Times.

Blizzard’s responsible behavior should set an example to other foreign firms when dealing with similar matters, Liu said.