Epic Games says it won't punish Fortnite players for political speech

(Image credit: Epic Games)

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 that Fortnite 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."

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" 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 because of Blizzard's "completely unwarranted and unfair" treatment of Blitzchung.

Andy Chalk

Andy has been gaming on PCs from the very beginning, starting as a youngster with text adventures and primitive action games on a cassette-based TRS80. From there he graduated to the glory days of Sierra Online adventures and Microprose sims, ran a local BBS, learned how to build PCs, and developed a longstanding love of RPGs, immersive sims, and shooters. He began writing videogame news in 2007 for The Escapist and somehow managed to avoid getting fired until 2014, when he joined the storied ranks of PC Gamer. He covers all aspects of the industry, from new game announcements and patch notes to legal disputes, Twitch beefs, esports, and Henry Cavill. Lots of Henry Cavill.