Blizzard cancels Overwatch event amidst backlash

Activision Blizzard Inc., reeling from harsh reactions after it punished a tournament player for backing Hong Kong’s anti-Beijing protesters, canceled a New York launch event for an edition of its Overwatch game.

The event, scheduled for Wednesday at Nintendo Co.’s store in Rockefeller Center, was planned to support the release of Overwatch: Legendary Edition for the Nintendo Switch portable game machine. Nintendo tweeted Tuesday that Blizzard had canceled the promotion.

Blizzard, which didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment, has been struggling to contain a backlash after it punished the gamer Chung Ng Wai, known as Blitzchung. The player wore a gas mask and chanted a pro-Hong Kong slogan in a post-tournament interview, leading Blizzard to ban him from events for a year and strip him of $10,000 in prize money.

After an uproar from customers and U.S. lawmakers, who said Blizzard was kowtowing to China, the company reduced Blitzchung’s suspension to six months and restored his prize money.

Other Western businesses have found themselves ensnared in the difficult political balance of operating in China amid its crackdown on the Hong Kong protests.

The NBA lost Chinese broadcasting spots and sponsorships last week after a Houston Rockets executive briefly tweeted support for the demonstrators. Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James rekindled the controversy with comments criticizing the executive over the weekend, later backing off somewhat in a series of tweets.

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Blizzard cancels Overwatch event amidst backlash