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Blizzard’s decision to harshly punish professional Hearthstone player Blitzchung has already received criticism from across the political spectrum and game community, and another high-profile personality has joined the chorus with his thoughts: the very first Hearthstone World Champion.
James Kostesich aka “Firebat” won the Hearthstone World Championship in 2014, when the game was just getting started as a competitive esport. He’s still a popular streamer and competes on Team Omnislash. In the streaming show Omnistone, fellow Hearthstone personality Brian Kibler reiterated his previous statement that while Blitzchung definitely did violate the rules, the punishment is too extreme. Kostesich agreed.
“I agree that he’s not supposed to do that. That is definitely, clearly against the rules of Grandmasters,” Kostesich said. “But it’s definitely ridiculous how much he was punished for it. I agree that there’s probably something else going on–they want to make an example of him or something, because it’s just so unreasonable. I think they’re totally in the wrong to punish him that much: absolutely murdering the guy’s Hearthstone career, or attempting to anyway. It’s very sad to see. I wish they would support their players more. Using a player as an example, it doesn’t make me feel good.”
Kostesich’s comments are the latest in a series of sharp critiques leveled at Blizzard, which has included sitting US Senators, competing companies, and even some of Blizzard’s own employees. Kibler has quit his position as a Grandmasters caster in protest.
The incident began when Ng Wai Chung aka “Blitzchung” expressed his support for Hong Kong protests during a post-match interview. Blizzard said this violated its rule against any act that “brings you into public disrepute, offends a portion or group of the public, or otherwise damages Blizzard’s image.” As punishment, Chung was banned from competitive events for a year and forced to give up his $10,000 in winnings.
Kibler and Kostesich say they agree that Chung did actually commit a rule infraction, but it’s the year-long ban and $10,000 at stake that appear too harsh.
Meanwhile, Blizzard fans are still rallying a boycott. Several users on the Hearthstone subreddit have announced they are quitting the game or deleting accounts. Some fans have also called for Hearthstone streamers to quit the game in protest. This prompted at least one popular former streamer, Disguised Toast, to respond that such an expectation isn’t necessarily viable–but he issued a different kind of ultimatum of his own.
Hearthstone streamers are being pressured to stop streaming Hearthstone due to the Blitzchung drama, but that’s financially unrealistic for them.
So I’ll make this offer instead.
BLIZZARD, I will START playing Hearthstone again if you reconsider your position about his ban.
— Disguised Toast (@DisguisedToast) October 11, 2019