By Jason Parker
November 11, 2019
J. Allen Brack’s not new to Blizzard by any stretch of the imagination. He spent 12 years with the World of Warcraft team. Now that Mike Morhaime retired, Brack took his place as president of Blizzard Entertainment.
After BlizzCon 2018, there were major cuts made in the Blizzard esports scene. Then there was Blitzchung’s ban for political activism during a Hearthstone event. This was the ultimate test of Blizzard’s new president who called his first year a “challenging year” in a recent interview with Esports Observer.
J. Allen Brack reflects on his first year as President of @Blizzard_Ent, and the controversial suspension of @blitzchungHS:— The Esports Observer (@esportsobserved) November 11, 2019
“We have some immaturity as an organization in terms of how to think about it and how to deal with it."https://t.co/AEXPTFHKlz pic.twitter.com/xCsMwy8TdE
October 6th, 2019 is a date we’re not soon to forget in the world of esports. Ng Way “Blitzchung” Chung spoke out for the liberation of Hong Kong. This took place during a Hearthstone Grandmasters event. Blizzard responded by banning him and stripping him of his winnings.
Sure, Brack apologized during a BlizzCon speech, and the sentence was lowered. Blitzchung received his winnings back and only received a six-month ban.
In his opening statement for #BlizzCon2019, Blizzard Entertainment president J. Allen Brack spoke to the company’s decision to suspend @blitzchunghs, saying "we have failed in our purpose." Watch: pic.twitter.com/MprX4GPDKC— ESPN Esports (@ESPN_Esports) November 1, 2019
The apology felt hollow and empty, unfortunately. I am willing to believe that the statement made on Weibo was not approved. I am sure Blizzard did not approve the “defending the pride of China” post.
J. Allen Brack discussed this event with Esports Observer.
“We should have taken some time, we should have paused, we should have been more thoughtful around it. And then tried to think about how do we want to move forward, and what’s the five-year decision as opposed to what’s this decision? What are the principles that we want to establish for the next five years? That didn’t happen.”
It’s easy to say something is important to you, it’s another thing entirely to do something about it. Blizzard stated they don’t censor their players on their personal social media, which is a fairly liberal stance. Then they do level a ban for a player speaking up on an important social stance. Sure, it’s “against the rules.” But their response was irrational and smacked of bowing to a foreign power.
Now, I don’t hate Blizzard. I may disagree with a wealth of policies and decisions, but I don’t hate them. This was a unique position that Blizzard was in, and they dropped the ball. Their response was to apologize and announce a mountain of upcoming games. Overwatch 2, a World of Warcraft expansion, Hearthstone expansion, and Diablo IV? They could have had this planned already. But it’s very conspicuous that they announced major news right after the Blitzchung affair.
This has without a doubt, been one of Blizzard’s worst PR years to date. This is not something that will be swept under the rug and forgotten about. The Blitzchung affair was a new experience, and to say Blizzard jumped the gun is an understatement. All eyes are going to be on Blizzard and their president Brack in the next year.
J. Allen Brack spoke to the Esports Observer about dealing with situations like this going forward.
“There’s some work for us to do, to align rules and to think through all that and think about how we’re going to handle this going forward. But this… it’s the first time for us, really. And so it exposed some immaturity for sure.”