As Blizzard continues to take heat for banning Hearthstone esports player 'Blitzchung' for speaking out in support of Hong Kong's pro-democracy movement during a post-match interview, another influential U.S. game company has defended its players' right to free speech.
Fortnite maker Epic Games claims that, unlike Blizzard, it "supports the rights of Fortnite players and creators to speak about politics and human rights." Those comments were tweeted out by company CEO and founder, Tim Sweeney, who pledged to let players speak their mind even if it means losing big investors.
"I thought [Epic] had a majority investor from the Chinese? Surely it would just end up in a similar situation, investor pulls out, big chunk of cashflow? It’s not the right decision to make but I’m sure it puts any company on the edge," said one Twitter user to Sweeney, pushing the chief exec on whether he'd ultimately be forced to cut ties with outspoken players if it meant losing major Chinese investor Tencent.
"Epic is a US company and I’m the controlling shareholder. Tencent is an approximately 40 percent shareholder, and there are many other shareholders including employees and investors," he responded. "That will never happen on my watch as the founder, CEO, and controlling shareholder."
It's a stance that will likely heap more misery on Blizzard, which also chose to rescind Blitzchung's prize money and cut ties with two casters after the Hearthstone player called for people to "liberate Hong Kong" during his post-game interview.
Although Blizzard tried to defend its decision by explaining Blitzchung brought himself into disrepute, and therefore violated the Hearthstone Grandmasters Official Competition Rules, the majority of people have refused to side with the company. Some of its own employees have even voiced their distaste by covering up the "Every Voice Matters" and "Think Globally" plaques outside the studio.
The backlash hasn't been contained within the games industry, either, and two U.S. senators have also spoken out against what they perceive to be a "humiliating" decision that was only made to appease the Chinese Communist Party. "No American company should censor calls for freedom to make a quick buck," commented one senator.