Following a controversial decision to ban a professional Hearthstone player who expressed support for Hong Kong protests on an official stream, Blizzard lost at least one advertiser. Mitsubishi Motors Taiwan ended its sponsorship of Blizzard esports events just two days after the decision was announced, reports The Daily Beast.
Hearthstone fans on Reddit first noticed that the Mitsubishi logo had disappeared from the signage in an official broadcast, and Mitsubishi spokesperson Erica Rasch has reportedly confirmed the move. The report also followed up with other notable sponsors, including Coca-Cola and ASUS, both of which did not respond. The streaming platform Twitch, which airs many esports events, says its relationship with the collegiate league has not been impacted.
The controversy began in early October, when competitive player Ng Wai Chung aka Blitzchung expressed support for Hong Kong protests during an official broadcast interview. Blizzard found this in violation of its rules, rescinded his prize winnings, and banned him for a full year.
The news sheds more light on the many types of pressure Blizzard faced immediately following its decision. The penalty determination led to widespread protests, long-time players swearing off the game, statements from US Senators, walkouts from employees, sharp criticism from high-profile players, and now we know, advertisers cutting ties. Shortly after, the company issued a statement partially rescinding its punishment, giving back Chung’s monetary winnings and reducing his ban to six months.
In the statement, Blizzard president J. AllenBrack denied that the decision was motivated in any way by its relationships with China, and said that an opposing message delivered in a similar way would also receive punishment.
Currently, Blizzard is preparing to show what’s next for Hearthstone, and many of its other games, at its annual BlizzCon event. But the controversy hasn’t ended entirely, as activists are planning to protest outside the convention.