I am literally writing this as I watch a VOD from the LOL World Championship and I have to say that I am a little disappointed. I have been playing League of Legends for around 4 years now and I always enjoyed Riot Games’ responses when faced with tricky situations. Not this time.
In case you are not aware, a huge scandal hit the gaming world as a Heartstone player, blitzchung, won a match and then voiced his full support for the protesters in Hong Kong during an interview. This led Blizzard to COMPLETELY remove him from the Grandmasters competition, take away ALL his winnings and issue a one-year ban. The only reason to do this was to appease China since Tencent has a stake in Blizzard.
The same Chinese company also has stakes in Epic Games and FULLY owns Riot Games.
Apparently, in order to avoid controversy, Riot Games issued a statement on Twitter:
As a guy that is specialized in marketing and PR, I can only say that this is a BULL answer, a message that clearly hides a real intent, which is most likely to make the parent company happy. No matter how you put this, we are talking about stopping freedom of speech, which is exactly what has been happening in China for so many years.
Epic Games quickly declared that they would never punish or ban any Fortnite player or even content creator because of talking about such topics. This is the correct answer you need to have when you are a game developer when you are faced with such a situation.
Riot Games’ League of Legends is HUGE in China. The 2018 World Champions are from China.
There are more and more huge esports games that are being influenced by companies in China. This is not at all a good thing. In an attempt to make more and more money, game developers end up partnering with Chinese media outlets and practically need to respect horrible rules because of what happens in the country.
Blizzard got flamed hard by the gaming community. The company is not doing as great as it claims. Every single gamer that has been playing their games for a long time realizes this. Their Heroes Of The Storm ended up being a huge flop and Starcraft II almost died until it became free to play. Now, it took a horrible stance on an event that will literally be seen as stopping freedom of speech.
What happens in China is really serious. Blizzard blundered. As a result of the fact that the gaming community simply attacked the developer, Blizzard decided to reduce the suspension to 6 months and the money was given back. This is definitely not enough.
Apparently, there is a rule that Blizzard has that states esports events have to be kept focused on the games. This is what they said was the reason for the ban and the fine. Nobody can possibly believe something like that because of the ban. Normally, in sports, for such a rule being broken, the result is a fine. In this case it was a ONE-YEAR ban.
Unfortunately, such decisions have repercussions. One of them is that the credibility of esports goes down and we end up seeing everything as a Chinese monopoly. The credibility of esports went down because of this and seeing Riot Games take on the exact same attitude, all with a PR message that nobody can actually believe is horrible. Riot Games has players from all around the world and claims to always listen to the players. I am not buying that. It might not seem like it, but it is still censorship. It is normal to want casters to respect something but you cannot ban what players say.