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Gamers boycott Activision Blizzard after tournament winner voices support for Hong Kong

Meghan Fitzgerald

The gaming community is hitting back at video game company Activision Blizzard (ATVI) after it banned a Hong Kong player known as "Blitzchung" from a tournament. The player, whose real name is Ng Wai Chung, called for a political revolution amid the ongoing Hong Kong protests. Gaming & Esports consultant Rod “Slasher” Breslau says gaming fans won’t back down.

“If there’s anyone more passionate than sports fans in the world, it is the gaming community,” Breslau told Yahoo Finance’s YFI PM.They’re probably the most connected, the most digitally aware of what’s going on. When they are really angry at something, they can definitely put together one of the best boycotts in the world.”

Blizzard stripped Ng of his winnings and banned him from competing in next year’s popular Hearthstone tournament for shouting the Hong Kong protest slogan "Liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our times” during a livestream. Blizzard says this violates the rules of its competition.

Blizzard players lashed out on social media, posting pictures of their cancelled subscriptions to Blizzard-owned games like World of Warcraft and Overwatch. Competitor Epic Games took advantage of the boycott, saying it will not penalize its own players for political protests.

“I have to say, I’m not totally convinced yet by Epic’s statements,” Breslau said. “I cover Epic for a living and I see what they’re doing. I think it’s definitely an opportunity for them while Activison Blizzard’s getting kicked around.”

Mark Kern, a video game designer who led the creation of World of Warcraft took to Twitter to weigh in, saying, "We are in a situation where unlimited Communist money dictates our American values. We censor our games for China, we censor our movies for China. Now, game companies are silencing voices for freedom and democracy."

The incident comes as tensions between China and the NBA also escalate over the protests. China’s state media cancelled the league’s fan event slated for today in Shanghai after Houston Rockets’ general manager Daryl Morey tweeted a pro-Hong Kong image. Some mainland China fans are reportedly furious with the NBA over the cancellation, while Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta says Morey “doesn’t speak for the Houston Rockets.”

“Everyone should remember that Tencent really is the key in all of this,” Breslau explained. “Tencent 100% owns Riot and League of Legends. They own 45% of Epic Games, which is Fortnite. They own 10% of Activison Blizzard. They own pretty much half of the entire gaming community on top of being the main partner of the NBA.”

This is not the first time Chinese tech giant Tencent (TCEHY) has been entangled with the government. It previously built a system to track how long individual gamers in China spend playing League of Legends, according to the Los Angeles Times. The company reportedly locks out gamers who stay on for more than two hours per day amid accusations of its role in video game addiction.

Meghan Fitzgerald is a producer at Yahoo Finance.

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