Days after Blizzard upset fans for banning Hearthstone pro Blitzchung, revoking his title, and rescinding his prize money for making a statement against Communist China, Epic Games has affirmed that it would not ban players for making political statements. This has echoed the sentiment shared by many members of the online community since Blizzard's controversial move, with US Senator Marco Rubio even criticizing Blizzard.
In a statement, an Epic Games spokesperson said, "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." It isn't exactly a shocking move, as the reaction to Blizzard's actions has been met with overwhelming negativity, even leading to #BoycottBlizzard trending on Twitter. With the company's annual convention, Blizzcon, just on the horizon, it'll be interesting to see how the company addresses fans during the opening ceremony, where Blizzard typically makes its big announcements for the year.
Epic CEO Time Sweeney took to Twitter to further drive home Epic's statement, stating that, "Epic supports everyone’s right to speak freely. China [sic] players of Fortnite are free to criticize the US or criticize Epic just as equally as all others." It's worth noting that Tencent, a Chinese company that many have accused of putting spyware on PCs, owns a significant portion of Epic Games, and the potential financial ramifications for Epic's stance could be severe. Still, Sweeney is the majority shareholder and CEO - his word arguably carries the most weight.
Epic supports everyone’s right to speak freely. China players of Fortnite are free to criticize the US or criticize Epic just as equally as all others.— Tim Sweeney (@TimSweeneyEpic) October 9, 2019
The last few years have not been kind to Blizzard, at least from a PR standpoint. Activision-Blizzard suffered a massive round of layoffs last year, despite the company posting record earnings. That move, as well as several others, proved to be highly unpopular, with the layoffs in particular serving as another battle cry for game developers to unionize. The company has some work to do to regain the trust of disenchanted fans, and this move certainly hasn't helped.
However, Epic's statement should come as a relief to professional Fornite players the world over. The spotlight provided by winning a major championship is one of the best opportunities an individual has to make a statement, and it has been used to do so throughout history for many sports.
Source: The Verge