Activision Blizzard is one of the most beloved brands in gaming. Fans are gaga about its titles, like the cartoonish shooting game Overwatch, the dungeon crawling game Diablo or the online fantasy game World of Warcraft.
But the way Blizzard handled a live competition for its online card game Hearthstone.
On Oct. 8, Blizzard banned Hearthstone pro Chung “Blitzchung” Ng Wai after he expressed support for Hong Kong protesters focused on democratic rights. He appeared on camera for a livestream during the competition wearing a mask similar to those worn by protesters in the beleaguered city’s streets and said, “Liberate Hong Kong!”
Blizzard initially banned Blitzchung from Hearthstone competitions for a year and stripped him of his prize money. Blizzard later reduced the ban to six months and returned Blitzchung’s winnings. But that didn’t stop angry fans, who saw the initial move as overreach and a sign the company had turned on them.
Speaking Friday at, President J. Allen Brack apologized to fans.
“Blizzard had an opportunity to bring the world together in a tough Hearthstone e-sports moment about a month ago,” said Brack, in a statement as the event began. He said the company moved , and it was too slow to explain its decisions to the fans.
“We didn’t live up to the high standards that we really set for ourselves,” he added. “For that, I am sorry, and accept accountability.”
That may not calm some fans, who’ve been organizing online and planning to protest during the event.
Blizzcon is being held at the Anaheim Convention Center in Southern California. CNET sister site GameSpot will be covering the protests, as well as each of the announcements from the show throughout the weekend.
Blizzcon isn’t just about the Hong Kong protests though. The company also announced new games and an update for some of its existing titles.
The opening ceremony is usually streamed live on Blizzcon’s website, but for the rest of the show, fans will have to buy a “virtual ticket” that gives them access to livestreams of competitions and community events. This year that ticket will set you back $50, but it also includes digital cosmetic items for each of Blizzard’s big games.