Mitsubishi Motors Taiwan has ended its sponsorship of Blizzard’s Hearthstone Grandmasters Asia Pacific, as reported by The Daily Beast.
This move follows the suspension of Hong Kong-based Hearthstone player Chung “blitzchung” Ng Wai, which has caused ripples through the esports and gaming communities and beyond since.
Blizzard found blitzchung to have violated the 2019 Hearthstone Grandmasters Official Competition Rules earlier this month. He appeared on an Asia-Pacific Grandmasters post-game interview donning a gas mask and goggles – showing support for protestors who are active in Hong Kong.
Blizzard removed the two casters involved in the incident from the broadcast too. The developer initially suspended blitzchung from professional play for a year, withholding his prize money, though this ruling has since been reduced to a six-month suspension with no penalties to his $10,000 (£7,700) prize earnings.
J. Allen Brack, President at Blizzard spoke about why the suspension was imposed, saying players must face repercussions for “taking the conversation away from the purpose of the event and disrupting or derailing the broadcast.”
Following the ruling, Blizzard faced pressure from fans and employees for its handling of the incident. Many cite its relationship with China being part of the ruling, considering Chinese tech giant Tencent holds a 5 percent share in Activision Blizzard.
This development occurs just a week ahead of BlizzCon 2019, which will be held at the Anaheim Convention Centre in California on November 1st-2nd.
Esports Insider says: Although the public backlash would have undoubtedly had an effect on Blizzard, having a prominent sponsor pull out due to the controversy is certainly impactful. Blizzard has since reduced the suspension to a more lenient sentence and returned blitzchung’s earnings, which shows that it acknowledges the initial ruling as improper.