Activision Blizzard saw its stock recover Friday despite continued backlash over its decision to punish a “Hearthstone” player for publicly siding with Hong Kong’s pro-democracy protesters. The company’s share price was up more than 2% Friday, closing at $54.82.
Activision had been in the spotlight ever since Ng Wai Chung, a player of its “Hearthstone” game who is better known under his gamer handle Blitzchung, used a post-game interview stream following his win of the Asia-Pacific Grandmasters tournament to call for the liberation of Hong Kong this past Sunday.
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Blizzard responded to the incident by rescinding Blitzchung’s prize money, totaling $10,000, and banning him from the company’s professional competitions for one year. The company justified this step by pointing to tournament rules that don’t allow players to offend parts of their audience, or otherwise tarnish the company’s image.
“While we stand by one’s right to express individual thoughts and opinions, players and other participants that elect to participate in our esports competitions must abide by the official competition rules,” Blizzard said in a statement at the time.
However, critics were quick to point out that Chinese tech giant Tencent holds a significant stake in Activision Blizzard. A number of players and live streamers have since announced that they would boycott the company’s games, and some employees staged a walkout Tuesday.
Activision isn’t the only company facing a backlash over its handling of the Hong Kong protests. Apple has been heavily criticized for pulling an app from its Hong Kong store that allowed demonstrators and others to track police activity in the city.
CEO Tim Cook justified the removal by claiming that the app could have endangered police officers and citizens alike. However, U.S. lawmakers from across the political spectrum have criticized Apple’s decision as wrong, with Republican Sen. Josh Hawley tweeting: “Who is really running Apple? Tim Cook or Beijing?”
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