Blizzard has canceled its Overwatch event that was slated to take place in New York City on Wednesday amid controversy over its treatment of a Hearthstone tournament player who publicly backed Hong Kong protesters.
Nintendo tweeted on Tuesday evening that the event at Nintendo Co.’s Rockefeller Center store would not happen as scheduled, apologizing for the inconvenience.
The event was scheduled to coincide with the launch of Overwatch Legendary Edition on Nintendo Switch, with the opportunity for attendees to meet voice actors from the game. Blizzard is a developer and publisher of popular games like Overwatch, World of Warcraft, Diablo, Hearthstone, and more.
Please be aware that the previously announced Overwatch launch event scheduled for Wednesday, 10/16 at NintendoNYC has been cancelled by Blizzard. We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause.
— Nintendo NY (@NintendoNYC) October 15, 2019
After winning a match in the Hearthstone Grandmasters competition, player Chung “blitzchung” Ng Wai took the opportunity to voice his support for the Hong Kong protesters in a postgame interview. Afterward, Blizzard removed him from the competition, revoked his winnings, and slapped him with a one-year suspension from all Hearthstone events.
Blizzard has since broken its silence on its response to blitzchung, reducing his suspension to six months and giving back his winnings for the tournament. The company claims that the decision for his temporary ban from Hearthstone tournaments is because he broke the rule of keeping e-sports events focused on games, and not due to the content of his message.
“We have these rules to keep the focus on the game and on the tournament to the benefit of a global audience, and that was the only consideration in the actions we took,” J. Allen Brack, President of Blizzard Entertainment, said in the company’s official statement. “Moving forward, we will continue to apply tournament rules to ensure our official broadcasts remain focused on the game and are not a platform for divisive social or political views.”
Despite the clarification from Blizzard, the global gaming community has criticized the company, with some going as far as boycotting it altogether, as the move appeared to some as serving the sole purpose of appeasing China.
For the past few months, protesters have taken to the streets of Hong Kong to rally against a bill that would allow criminal extradition from Hong Kong to mainland China. Protests have now grown to encompass broader democratic reform.
Digital Trends reached out to both Blizzard and Nintendo for comment on the event’s cancellation, and we’ll update this story once we hear back from them.
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