Before pro gamers took the stage this weekend at the League of Legends World Championship Group stage, developer Riot Games laid out some ground rules.
But the company’s message had little to do with the game itself.
Seemingly wary of stirring any geopolitical controversy after rival studio Blizzard faced backlash for punishing a gamer with pro-Hong Kong views, the Los Angeles-based maker of “League of Legends” warned Friday that broadcasts should be focused on the game and its players, and not include “personal views on sensitive topics (political, religious or otherwise).”
The company cited its global fan base for the decision, adding that it has employees and fans in areas where there has been political or social unrest, such as Hong Kong. Riot Games has been fully owned by Chinese tech giant Tencent since 2015.
A Riot Games spokesman said this was not a new policy, but it “beared repeating in light of the ongoing situation in Hong Kong and the current global political environment.”
“We believe we have a responsibility to do our best to ensure that statements or actions on our platforms (intended or not) do not escalate potentially sensitive situations,” John Needham, global head of “League of Legends” esports, said in a statement tweeted out by the “League of Legends” official esports account.
The move came just days after Blizzard Entertainment penalized pro gamer Blitzchung after he voiced support for pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong during a post-match interview.
Blizzard Entertainment, a unit of Santa Monica-based Activision Blizzard that runs the global competition, kicked Blitzchung out of the tournament, revoked his $10,000 prize winnings and banned him from Hearthstone esports for a year. Analysts said the response indicated how dependent the company is on China and its massive consumer market.
But after an employee protest and calls from fans for a boycott, Blizzard Entertainment later reduced the ban to six months and paid the prize money to the gamer, whose real name is Ng Wai Chung.