New Delhi, March 16 (IANS) The Esports Federation of India (ESFI) Director and Asian Esports Federation (AESF) Vice President Lokesh Suji expressed his disappointment over the removal of online digital collectible card game Hearthstone’s removal from the Esports program at this year’s Hangzhou Asian Games, saying that it’s unfortunate because India’s first Esports medal at the tournament came in this very title in 2018.
The Olympic Council of Asia (OCA) on Thursday confirmed the decision proposed by the Hangzhou Asian Games Organizing Committee (HAGOC) and the Asian Electronic Sports Federation (AESF) during the fifth Coordination Committee meeting.
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Since negotiations between Blizzard Entertainment and NetEase regarding the extension of operating rights and their partnership agreement fell through, all servers hosting Hearthstone on the Chinese mainland operated by NetEase have been shut down and the operation team has been disbanded. This has left the game ineligible to be included as one of the competition events at the Hangzhou Asian Games, according to a statement by the Hangzhou Asian Games organizers.
“In light of recent events, it is with great regret that we announce the removal of Hearthstone from the Esports program at the Hangzhou Asian Games, ” a statement issued by AESF read.
In November 2022, negotiations between Blizzard Entertainment and NetEase regarding the extension of operating rights and their partnership agreement ended without reaching a conclusion. As a result, all servers hosting Hearthstone on the Chinese Mainland have been shut down and the team managing the game has been disbanded. This has left the game in a state where it is unable to be included as one of the competition events at the Hangzhou Asian Games.
Efforts were made to resolve the issue with the Asian Electronic Sports Federation (AESF). However, there was no significant progress in finding a solution.
After extensive discussions with the Hangzhou Asian Games Organizing Committee (HAGOC), it was proposed that Hearthstone be removed from the competition program,” it added.
Notably, Esports is going to make its debut at the Asian Games 2023 as a medal event, earlier in 2018 it was there as a demonstration title. The Asian Games 2022, originally scheduled for September last year, will now be held from September 23 to October 8, 2023.
“It is unfortunate to hear that Hearthstone will not be included in the upcoming Asian Games, especially because India’s first Esports medal at the tournament came in this very title in 2018 when Tirth Mehta clinched the bronze medal. That achievement holds a special place in our Esports community and we were hopeful that our talented athletes Shikhar Choudhary and Karthik Varma would be able to bring similar honour to the country by competing in this official medal sport,” said Lokesh Suji in a statement.
“Nonetheless, we respect the OCA’s decision and remain confident that our athletes will perform at the highest level in the other titles to make the country proud. We look forward to supporting them as they represent India in the prestigious tournament,” he added.
After the OCA’s latest decision, the Hangzhou Asian Games will feature seven Esports events, namely FIFA Online 4, PUBG Mobile Asian Games version, Arena of Valor Asian Games version, Dota 2, League of Legends, Dream Three Kingdoms 2 and Street Fighter V.