'Fortnite' creator says it won't punish players for speaking out about politics, as Blizzard faces backlash and calls for a boycott after banning competitor for supporting Hong Kong protests
- Epic Games CEO Tim Sweeney says the company will not punish "Fortnite" players who choose to comment on politics or human rights.
- Sweeney's statement comes as Activision Blizzard faces a massive backlash for punishing an esports competitor from Hong Kong.
- Chung Ng Wai, the esports competitor better known as Blitzchung, shouted "Liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our age" in Chinese during a post-match interview at a Blizzard-sponsored "Hearthstone" tournament in Taiwan.
- Blizzard responded by stripping Blitzchung of his prize money and barring him from "Hearthstone" competitions for one year. Blizzard said Blitzchung's comments had violated the competition rules by damaging the company's image.
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Epic Games CEO Tim Sweeney said his company will support players who choose to speak about politics and human rights, an apparent dig at Activision Blizzard, the major video game publisher that punished a player in Hong Kong after he called for the territory's liberation.
"Epic supports everyone's right to express their views on politics and human rights," an Epic spokesperson said in a statement. "We wouldn't ban or punish a Fortnite player or content creator for speaking on these topics."Sweeney shared the same message from his personal Twitter account. The Verge's Makena Kelly first reported Epic's statement supporting free speech.
Blizzard faces backlash after banning "Hearthstone" player from competition
Blizzard stripped Chung Ng Wai, better known as Blitzchung, of his prize money and banned him from competing in "Hearthstone" esports tournaments for one-year after he shouted "Liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our age" in Chinese during a post-match interview at a Blizzard-sponsored "Hearthstone" tournament in Taiwan.
During the last four months, millions of people in Hong Kong have marched to demand sovereignty from mainland China and protest increasingly poor socioeconomic conditions. The ongoing protests have already garnered international attention, with the territory's increasingly complex relationship with China's communist government as a core issue.
Blizzard's decision garnered widespread criticism, leading some fans to boycott Blizzard's games and stage protests across social media. Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon was one of the many voices that came to Blitzchung's defense, accusing Blizzard of censorship.
Despite ties to China, Sweeney says Epic will "never" punish players for commenting on politics and human rightsEpic is the creator of "Fortnite," the popular free-to-play game with more than 250 million registered players. "Fortnite" launched in China in 2018 and a handful of Chinese players competed in Epic's $30 million Fortnite World Cup tournament in July. Epic's digital storefront for PC games, the Epic Games Store, reportedly operates in China as well, while its prime competition hasn't been able to break into the Chinese market.
Tencent, China's largest video game publisher, invested $330 million to acquire a 40 percent stake in Epic Games back in 2012. Tencent's large investment helped Epic reinvent itself as an industry powerhouse, supporting the creation of Epic's Unreal Engine 4 game development suite and the eventual launch of "Fortnite."
Though Epic has plenty of ties to China, Sweeney said the company will "never" punish a player for saying something like "Free Hong Kong."
Yes, absolutely. That will never happen on my watch as the founder, CEO, and controlling shareholder.- Tim Sweeney (@TimSweeneyEpic) October 9, 2019