One of Hearthstone's most popular and influential streamers is effectively cutting his ties with Activision Blizzard.
Brian Kibler, a former Hearthstone pro and occasional caster official Activision Blizzard live streams, announced that he will no longer cast the Hearthstone Grandmasters at BlizzCon in November. The decision was announced on a post on his personal website and mirrored on Medium. Kibler’s decision, he wrote, is a reaction to what he described as Activision Blizzard’s “incredibly harsh” treatment of Hearthstone pro Chung “Blitzchung” Ng Wai.
“I reached out to Blizzard and informed them that I no longer feel comfortable casting the Grandmasters finals at BlizzCon,” Kibler said in his post. “I will not be a smiling face on camera that tacitly endorses this decision. Unless something changes, I will have no involvement in Grandmasters moving forward.”
After winning a match during Hearthstone’s Asia-Pacific Grandmaster tournament on October 6, Chung declared his support for the ongoing protests in Hong Kong. In response, Activision Blizzard suspended Chung from Hearthstone for a year and rescinded his tournament winnings. Chung’s suspension has become an international incident drawing condemnation from U.S. Senators.
“I feel what Blitzchung did was very brave,” Kibler said in his post. “He knew that his actions would likely have serious consequences, not just for his future in Hearthstone but possibly even for his personal safety, and I commend him for the fortitude that takes.”
Kibler pointed out that he did feel that Chung had violated Activision Blizzard’s rules as they’re written, which are incredibly broad. According to Activision Blizzard, Chung was guilty of “engaging in any act that, in Blizzard’s sole discretion, brings you into public disrepute, offends a portion or group of the public, or otherwise damages Blizzard image.”
“[Activision Blizzard does] not want to set the precedent for their official broadcasts being used as political tools,” Kibler said. “The players agreed to particular rules for behavior, and [Chung] violated those rules.” Kibler also noted his own politics, but said when he’s working for Activision Blizzard or a similar company, he checks his politics at the door.
But Kibler thinks Activision Blizzard went too far.
“I could understand a fine, or even a short suspension from competitive play, but removal from Grandmasters, clawing back the prizes he already earned, and banning him for a full year seems completely overboard,” he said. “I won’t pretend to understand the intricacies of the geopolitical situation in China and Hong Kong or the full extent of Blizzard’s business interests there, but to me this penalty feels like it is deeply rooted in both.”
“That kind of appeasement is simply not something I can in good conscience be associated with,”he said.
Blizzard and Kibler did not respond to our request for comment.