One might wonder why, possessed as it was of a pretty good week of announcements, Riot Games would willingly put Blizzard’s One Ring on its finger, drawing the great eye of Sauron directly upon it, but that’s exactly what’s happened.
According to Kotaku UK, Riot Games CEO Nicolo Laurent decided to comment on the Blizzard situation during a round table with media in London this week. “If you talk to anyone at Riot, we have a huge amount of respect for Blizzard. We love all of their games […] and to be honest, they’ve had challenges over the past couple of years, but we feel sadness, because we love Blizzard, we love their games, we love a lot of the developers. To be honest, when they’re in difficulty, my feeling is empathy.”
That empathy apparently starts and stops with the studio and doesn’t extend to the players, as Laurent seems to side with Blizzard on cracking down on its outspoken professional esports cohort, regardless of the oppression those players are confronting – which is likely why Riot Games issued a broad warning to avoid “sensitive issues” during last weekend’s World Champs events.
“When we make an esports broadcast, we want the focus to be on the game. It doesn’t mean that you can’t talk about anything else, but there are a few topics we’d rather not bring up to the camera, including highly sensitive political topics. I don’t think you want Americans debating Trump impeachment during a broadcast, I don’t think you want Russian players to talk about Putin on the broadcast, you don’t want Chinese players to talk about the South China Sea. You don’t want to set that precedent.”
Riot Games, of course, is not merely 5% owned by Chinese corporation Tencent as Blizzard is; Tencent owns every last speck of Riot, making Laurent’s commentary seem a tad motivated. Moreover, Riot Games has made for some ghastly headlines following the expose of its sexual harassment and sexual discrimination problems last year, the shabby response to which prompted an employee protest and walkout and lawsuit and enforcement suit from the California DFEH, which accused Riot of not fully cooperating with its investigation. Maybe Riot’s multi-millionaire executives could point some of that Blizzard “empathy” back at their own workers?