A vaguely worded White House executive order targeting WeChat – owned by Chinese digital entertainment giant Tencent Holdings – has triggered panic online that the move could deal a death blow to the global video gaming industry.
US President Donald Trump signed the order late on Thursday evening, banning American firms from doing business with Tencent – or at least any transactions “related to” its messaging app, WeChat. The move kicked off a frenzy of speculation from netizens, who pointed to the fact that Tencent holds large stakes in a series of major game developers. That roster includes full ownership of Riot Games – creator of ‘League of Legends’ – a 40 percent holding in Epic Games of ‘Fortnite’ fame, as well as percentages of Activision Blizzard and Ubisoft.
“Gamers are about to wake up to just how many game companies Tencent owns,” one user observed on Twitter following Trump’s order, which was joined by a similar directive banning transactions with the Beijing-based owner of video sharing app TikTok.
Because if it's TenCent ... they own 40% of Epic Games. Which, among other things, makes Fortnite, one of the most popular games *in the world*— James Palmer (@BeijingPalmer) August 7, 2020
I won't even pretend to understand how this could potentially impact esports - Tencent owns 100% of Riot Games (publisher of League of Legends/Valorant), 40% of Epic Games (Fortnite) & has stakes in several other major game publishers.— Ian Thomas (@byIanThomas) August 7, 2020
Some went as far as to claim the Trump administration had declared a “war on gamers,” while others predicted an uprising by controller-wielding rebels in retaliation.
BREAKING NEWS: The United States declares war on gamers— Lucy Kwiatek (@MandHF) August 7, 2020
Much of the concern about the order stemmed from confusion over its wording, leading some to believe Tencent, as well as its many subsidiaries and partially owned enterprises, would be entirely banned in the US. Such a move would have far-reaching consequences for the gaming industry worldwide, likely disrupting business ties between a vast international network of companies.
The EO is vague on what constitutes a “transaction.”Riot games is one company wholly owned by Tencent. This may prevent riot from operating.Other companies with minority Tencent ownership may not directly “transacting” since they are US majority owned. No clarity. https://t.co/XoobU9zAR5— Grummz (@Grummz) August 7, 2020
Concerning the Executive Order on WeChat and Tencent. It’s vague, and there’s a few ways to interpret the order. It’s unclear if Tencent’s entire USA portfolio is involved. With this said, this is a huge wake up call for the gaming industry and social media. China owns our data.— Trent Lapinski (@trentlapinski) August 7, 2020
A reporter with the LA Times, Sam Dean, later weighed in, however, dispelling the outpouring of predictions of an imminent gamer-pocalypse, noting that a White House official had confirmed to the paper that the order would not affect Tencent’s long list of gaming-related companies. Dean noted the order itself was indeed vague, but summed up the White House’s position as “we just mean WeChat.”
This was pretty much impossible to tell from the EO itself—I also had a 😲 moment that they were roping in Riot et al when I first read it—but "we just mean WeChat" is the WH line for tonight.But banning all transactions on/with WeChat alone is still WILD.— Sam Dean 🦅 (@SamAugustDean) August 7, 2020
Following Thursday’s executive order, Tencent stock tumbled by some 10 percent on Hong Kong’s Hang Seng market index, its largest drop in nearly 10 years, according to Bloomberg. The move also helped to wipe out a week of gains on mainland China’s tech-heavy ChiNext Index, which took a hit of around 2.6 percent.
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