Blizzard, seemingly determined to stumble from controversy to PR clanger in perpetuity, has gone and done it again. Three Hearthstone players from Blizzard’s official Hearthstone Collegiate Championships have been hit with six-month bans for holding up a sign which read “Free Hong Kong, Boycott Blizz”.

This comes just a week after Blizzard’s high-profile banning of Hearthstone eSports player Chung ‘Blitzchung’ Ng Wai, a move which generated immense controversy and dealt us the worst non-apology since "It was something I said in the heat of the moment.” 

Tensions, it would be fair to say, are running high. Blizzard-related subreddits have been going up and down faster than Bitcoin. There are talks of protests at BlizzCon in a fortnight, widespread boycotts, and now a general feeling that Blizzard really couldn’t give a damn about any of it provided its stake in the Chinese gaming market is protected.

Banning three more players is just going to add fuel to the already raging fire. Three American University team members were hit with the banhammer, including Casey Chambers, Corwin Dark (these read like fake American names), and a third who’s just known by his online handle of TJammer. According to Vice, Blizzard cut away from their protest quickly and the shout casters pretended the whole thing hadn’t even happened. 

A little time passed and then yesterday, Blizzard issue its response and repeated the sanctions which had already been placed against Blitzchung. Cue a six-month ban and the publishing of Blizzard’s ruling on the Hearthstone Collegiate Championships.

“During week 4 of the Fall 2019 Hearthstone Collegiate Championships, players GiantDwarf, TJammer and Xcelsior were in violation of section 7.1.B of the Hearthstone Collegiate Championship rules for engaging in behavior disruptive to the official esports broadcast. The players are disqualified from the ongoing tournament and will be ineligible to participate in Hearthstone esports for 6 months, beginning from October 8th, 2019 and extending to April 8th, 2020. Following the 6 months suspension, the players may, at their discretion, continue to participate in Hearthstone esports.”

This all feels unimaginably stupid on Blizzard’s part and we can only imagine the storm which is brewing for BlizzCon 2019. There’s not long to wait to find out how it all goes down either - BlizzCon 2019 takes place on November 1-2 at the Anaheim Convention Center in California. You can buy digital tickets if you want to see the fun unfold live, although we expect the, er, highlights, should surface from the event pretty quickly.