Riot CEO says he feels “empathy” for Blizzard amidst Hong Kong controversy

"But I also know, as a fan of them, they will rebound like they have over the years.”

Image via Riot Games

Riot Games’ CEO, Nicolo Laurent, addressed Blizzard’s recent struggles at the European League of Legends 10-year anniversary celebration today, explaining that he’s empathetic toward the company’s position.

“To be honest, yeah, they’ve had challenges over the last couple of years,” Laurent said at a round table discussion. “But we feel sad because we love Blizzard. We love their games. When they’re in difficulty, to me, my feeling is actually empathy. I feel sad. But I also know, as a fan of them, they will rebound like they have over the years.”

Blizzard received a lot of backlash for its punishment of Chung “Blitzchung” Ng Wai after the Hearthstone pro voiced support for the Hong Kong protests during a post-game interview. While some players, employees, and Hearthstone casters disapproved of how the company handled the situation, Riot’s CEO took a more understanding approach.

Laurent said that Riot had its “fair share of challenges” as well over the last year, likely alluding to allegations of harassment and workplace misconduct.

This wasn’t the first time Riot commented on the issues in Hong Kong. Riot’s global head of League esports, John Needham, released a statement last week that addressed the company’s stance on political topics. Since controversial topics like the Hong Kong protests can be extremely nuanced, casters and pro players were asked to refrain from discussing them on air, Needham said.

If Riot faced a similar situation where a player used politically-charged statements on a live broadcast, Laurent said that setting a precedent could be dangerous.

“When we make an esports broadcast, we want the focus to be on the game,” Laurent said.

“I don’t think you want Americans debating about Trump impeachment during the broadcast. I don’t think you want Russian players to talk about Putin on the broadcast. You don’t want to set the precedent that’s going to become the conversation.

He added: “Every situation is different and I don’t feel it’s fair to look at how Blizzard has done it. I won’t judge them, nor speculate on what we would do.”