One of Blizzard’s major esports sponsors, Mitsubishi Motors, has withdrawn support of the company. The move came as a direct reaction to Blizzard’s decision to punish Hearthstone pro Chung ‘blitzchung’ Ng Wai for expressing solidarity with Hong Kong protestors on an official Hearthstone livestream.
Some savvy Reddit users had noticed that the Mitsubishi Motors logo was conspicuously absent from an official tournament stream, leading to suspicion that the car manufacturer and Blizzard had parted ways. They were correct, as spokesperson Erica Rasch confirmed to The Daily Beast (via Kotaku) that Mitsubishi ended its relationship with Blizzard literally two days after the blitzchung debacle.
Rasch wouldn’t comment further, and Blizzard hasn’t said anything either. Mitsubishi’s Taiwanese branch had sponsored all of Blizzard’s esports events, making this a very significant loss during an increasingly difficult time for the games publisher. It happening mere days after the blitzchung situation started suggests there’s quite a bit of internal negativity going around to complement all the swirling public cynicism.
Between boycotts and general industry dismay, this has been a PR nightmare for Blizzard. Part-owned by Chinese media giant Tencent, who have a 5% stake in Activision-Blizzard, and are tied to the Chinese Communist Party who oppose the Hong Kong protests, the company only stoked the flames by giving blitzchung a reduced suspension, but claiming the choice wasn’t politically motivated.
It was also recently confirmed several long-time developers had left as unannounced projects were cancelled. Blizzard wanted to double-down on Diablo 4 and Overwatch 2 instead, both of which are expected to be revealed at this year’s BlizzCon – which starts this Friday.
We’ll update if and when Blizzard release an official response.