On Wednesday morning, Tim Sweeney, the Chief Executive Officer and founder of Epic Games -- the creator of the global phenomenon, Fortnite -- took to his official Twitter account to let it be known that his company stands behind freedom of speech amid the controversy taking place within the video game industry.
All of this began on Sunday when professional Hearthstone player, Ng "blitzchung" Wai Chung, dedicated his post-match interview live on Activision Blizzard's official Twitch broadcast to call for the liberation of Hong Kong amid political turmoil in China.
Shortly after making the declaration, Blizzard responded by banning blitzchung from the competitive Hearthstone circuit for one year and withheld his prize earnings which were estimated to be around $10,000.
When news broke that Blizzard opted to support China, opposed to one of their professional players, #boycottblizzard began trending on social media, hundreds of Reddit threads began online, and fans expressed their disappointment in the company.
When asked on Twitter for Epic Games' stance on players of their game expressing their thoughts on politics and human rights on their social platforms or live streams, Sweeney was quick to reply. What makes this relevant is the fact that Tencent, a multi-billion Chinese conglomerate, is a 40% shareholder in Epic Games.
In a statement issued to The Verge, Epic Games said the following:
“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."
When asked to elaborate on his statement, Sweeney said that it doesn't matter where the player is from, the level of influence they may hold or what they say, Sweeney will allow them to exercise their First Amendment rights (I.e. freedom of speech).
Aside from their initial statement regarding blitzchung, Activision Blizzard has yet to comment further on the situation.
Tim Rizzo is the editor and a reporter for Inven Global. He joined the company back in 2017.