Blizzard Bans Pro Hearthstone Player for Political Message About China

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Last week professional Hearthstone player Chung “Blitzchung” Ng Wai, who is from Hong Kong, said, “Liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our time,” following a tournament win in Taiwan. The phrase is associated with the current ongoing protests in Hong Kong, and Blitzchung wore a gas mask similar to the types of masks worn by protesters.

The live feed was swiftly cut off (with casters ducking their heads), and the video was pulled. Within days Blizzard announced that Blitzchung violated the rules. They stripped him of his tournament winnings and banned him for a year. The casters were also fired.

The following was included in Blizzard’s official statement: “While we stand by one’s right to express individual thoughts and opinions, players and other participants that elect to participate in our esports competitions must abide by the official competition rules.”

The result has been a public relations disaster for Blizzard Entertainment. Many critics view it as bowing down to the censure-happy Chinese government, and the fact that Chinese media conglomerate Tencent owns a sizable 5% stake in the company. Fans, players, and even professional casters have performed protests or severed ties with Blizzard in response.

To try and put out the fires, J. Allen Brack, President of Blizzard Entertainment, issued another statement last Friday afternoon, attempting to clarify their position. Blizzard shortened Blitzchung’s ban from one year to six months, returned his prize money, and gave the casters a six month ban.

“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.

One of our goals at Blizzard is to make sure that every player, everywhere in the world, regardless of political views, religious beliefs, race, gender, or any other consideration always feels safe and welcome both competing in and playing our games.”

Blitzchung also put out a statement, which included the following: “Thank you for your attention in the past week […]. I’m grateful for Blizzard reconsidering their position about my ban. I told media that I knew I might have penalty or consequence for my act, because I understand that my act could take the convention away from the purpose of the event. In the future I will be more careful on that and express my opinion s or show my support to Hong Kong on my personal platforms.”

The PR fallout for Blizzard continues, as well as a wider discussion of how much the Chinese government influences many major companies around the world.

Go Back in Time with World of Warcraft Classic

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It’s been 15 years since World of Warcraft first launched, providing both a boost and eventual death knell to the then incredibly popular MMORPG genre. World of Warcraft has chanced in innumerable ways after so many years and half a dozen major expansion packs. But nostalgic veterans (and curious newcomers) can revisit the past with World of Warcraft Classic, available now for all subscribers.

“It’s been a long time coming, but we’re overjoyed to welcome our friends new and old to classic Azeroth,” said J. Allen Brack, president, Blizzard Entertainment. “The community’s excitement is infectious and deeply motivating — it’s clear they’re as thrilled as we are to relive the World of Warcraft Classic experience. We look forward to rediscovering its wonders and challenges together with them, starting today.”

WoW Classic resets the world back during the 2006 era, around the time of the Drums of War update. This predates any of the expansion packs, around the time full scale PvP warfare was being added.

Blizzard Entertainment plans on treating WoW Classic not as a frozen moment in time, but an evolving game just as it was back then. Six update phases are planned to roll out “new” content, such as infmous raids like Blackwing Lair and Naxxramas, PVP battlegrounds including Alterac Valley, and server-wide events such as the Scourge Invasion.

World of Warcraft Classic is available on PC, and included in a standard World of Warcraft subscription. It’s rated T for Teen.

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World of Warcraft Classic Out this Fall, Closed Beta Running Now

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In a stirring example of “ask and you shall receive,” Blizzard Entertainment is launching World of Warcraft Classic on August 27 worldwide. It’s out a day earlier in the US, August 26, at 3 pm Pacific/6 pm Eastern.

The launch will be preceded by a “small-scale, focused closed beta test” to help stress test the servers. Active WoW subscribers can opt into the closed beta via Blizzard account management. The closed beta will run from May 15 through July. Players will have a greater chance to join during the three stress test periods that run throughout the summer.

  • Stress Test 1: Wed May 22–Thurs May 23
  • Stress Test 2: Wed Jun 19– Thurs Jun 20
  • Stress Test 3: Thurs Jul 18– Fri July 19

Opting into the closed beta does not guarantee a spot. Participants will be chosen based on different factors, including how long they’ve subscribed to World of Warcraft, with Blizzard seeking “the right mix of players.”

WoW Classic is a uniquely retro version of the behemoth MMO that brings the gameplay, world, and progression back to the year 2006, just before the launch of the Burning Crusade expansion. Also referred to as Vanilla WoW, fan-created emulated servers of the classic MMO had been previously shut down by Blizzard. After claiming that it was impossible to do, Blizzard has now reversed course due to fan demand.

Wow Classic servers will use the 1.12 patch, and gradually roll out new content and features similarly to the original schedule over a decade ago. This includes the gradual roll out of the PvP and Battlegrounds systems.

Active subscribers will be able to claim their character name in WoW Classic beginning on August 13, when character creation becomes available. WoW Classic will be freely included in regular World of Warcraft subscriptions, which remains $15/month.

Wow Classic will launch on August 26 on PC (Blizzard Launcher). It’s rated T for Teen.

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GOG Welcomes the Lord of Terror with Diablo Rerelease

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Digital PC game store GOG added a seminal classic of PC gaming to its library: 1996’s Diablo. For the first time you can now purchase Diablo outside of Blizzard (or retail), for $9.99. It does not include the 1997 Hellfire expansion, which was released by a different company.

Like many of GOG’s rereleases, Diablo has been closely preserved to its original release, with 20 FPS SVGA graphics. Up to four players can journey beneath Tristram together through direct IP connection or the older version of Blizzard’s Battle.net multiplayer lobby. Note that playing online requires opening up ports and your firewall as Diablo predates modern online safeguards.

A few tweaks and updates have been included to support modern PCs, including Win 10 support and proper upscaling for higher resolutions.

While not the first dungeon crawling loot fest, Diablo is often considered the grandfather of the entire genre. Play a warrior, rogue, or sorcerer and explore randomly generated dungeons, fight monsters, and nab loot. Diablo was a huge success that begat an entire genre of co-op hack ‘n slash games that persists to this day.

Diablo was the most requested game on GOG. To this day it’s often voted as one of the best and most influential games of all time. Though its gameplay hasn’t aged quite as well, with clunky controls and muddy graphics. Diabl0 2, released in 2000, was a massive improvement in every way, and is even more highly regarded. Diablo 2 is currently available via Blizzard’s store.

Diablo represents the first of several classic Blizzard games that will make their way onto GOG. The partnership is due to the fact that these games’ older infrastructure prevent them from being sold and played via Blizzard’s modern Battle.net digital storefront. Blizzard’s solution is to remake them, such as with 2017’s StarCraft Remastered and WarCraft 3 Reforged, coming later this year. The original Warcraft 1 and 2 will be coming to GOG as well.

Diablo is rated M for Mature.