In the wake of Blizzard’s Hong Kong controversy, Epic Games would not impose sanctions on a player who expresses their political views, as communicated in a statement to The Verge.
After his Hearthstone Grandmasters win against Jang ‘DawN’ Hyun Jae, Chung ‘Blitzchung’ Ng Wai appeared on the official Twitch channel of Blizzard Taiwan for a post-match interview. Wearing ski goggles and a gas mask, he shouted in Chinese, ‘Liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our age!’ The livestream quickly cut to an advert break.
Following Blitzschung’s comment, Blizzard deleted the interview, stripped him of his prize winnings, banned him from Grandmasters and Hearthstone for one year, and fired the two casters. Blitzschung’s action is considered to be a violation of official competition rules, in that it brought him ‘into public disrepute, offend[ed] a portion or group of the public, or otherwise damage[d] Blizzard image’. Chinese media conglomerate Tencent has a five per cent stake in Blizzard, and the Hong Kong protests are in reaction to the proposed extradition bill that would send criminal suspects to China.
The communities of Activision Blizzard games have admonished the company’s decision regarding Blitzschung, and began the hashtag ‘#BoycottBlizzard’ on social media and cancelled subscriptions and refunded their games to take a stand. When contacted by The Verge, Epic Games has said that it would not follow the example that Blizzard has set if a Fortnite pro voiced political opinions.
‘Epic supports everyone’s right to express their views on politics and human rights. We wouldn’t ban or punish a Fortnite player or content creator for speaking on these topics,’ a representative stated. CEO Tim Sweeney echoed the sentiment on Twitter, and a few Twitter users drew attention to the fact that Tencent possesses an approximate 40 per cent stake in Epic Games.
In response, Sweeney clarified the influence that shareholders have over the company. ‘Epic is a US company and I’m the controlling shareholder,’ he added. ‘Tencent is an approximately 40% shareholder, and there are many other shareholders including employees and investors.’ If something similar to the Hearthstone incident occurred at a Fortnite tournament, Epic Games would not ban or punish the player involved in any way. ‘That will never happen on my watch as the founder, CEO, and controlling shareholder,’ Sweeney concluded.