Blizzard is currently wrangling a PR nightmare over Hearthstone Grandmaster Chung "Blitzchung" Ng Wai's call for Hong Kong's liberation from China in a recent post-match interview. Perhaps sensing an opening, Epic Games has now waded into the fray, telling The Verge (opens in new tab) that Fortnite (opens in new tab) players are free to speak their minds without fear of punishment.
"Epic supports everyone’s right to express their views on politics and human rights," a rep told the site. "We wouldn’t ban or punish a Fortnite player or content creator for speaking on these topics."
Epic founder and CEO Tim Sweeney repeated the statement on Twitter, and also responded to predictable questions about the influence of Chinese tech giant Tencent, which holds a significant—but not controlling—interest in the company. Responding to a tweet pointing out that the NBA threw one of its general managers under the bus to appease Chinese audiences, Sweeney said, "That will never happen on my watch as the founder, CEO, and controlling shareholder."
Epic is a US company and I’m the controlling shareholder. Tencent is an approximately 40% shareholder, and there are many other shareholders including employees and investors.October 9, 2019
It's easy to see a certain opportunism at play here, although Sweeney said that the statement was not issued proactively, but in response to a request for comment. Still, it's a sweeping promise which could very well be tested by players in the future. Because the statement generally covers "politics"—any sort of politics—it may not have anything to do with China when the time comes.
For now, the controversy over Blitzchung's call to "liberate Hong Kong" continues to roil: An American University player held up a banner reading "Free Hong Kong, Boycott Blizz (opens in new tab)" at the end of an American Collegiate Hearthstone Championship yesterday, and today Brian Kibler, a very high-profile figure in the Hearthstone community, announced that he will not take part in future Hearthstone Grandmasters livestreams (opens in new tab) because of Blizzard's "completely unwarranted and unfair" treatment of Blitzchung.