League of Legends
Call of Duty
United States President Donald Trump issued an executive order on August 6, targeting the Tencent-owned multi-purpose media app WeChat. The executive order prohibits certain transactions with Tencent and WeChat beginning on September 20. Fortunately, it seems that gaming companies totally or partially owned by Tencent will not be affected by this order.
Initially, President Trump targeted ByteDance, the parent company of TikTok, claiming TikTok posed security threats for the United States. Not long after, Trump’s attention turned to Tencent and WeChat. The Chinese government monitors and censors WeChat users’ activity as part of China’s mass surveillance system. This activity is then used to create censorship algorithms that target accounts registered outside of China.
President Trump’s executive order did not initially clarify what kinds of transactions with Tencent it would limit or ban. However, the order’s broad language seemed to allow for a sweeping range of prohibitions. Despite this, a White House official later clarified that WeChat is the exclusive target of this executive order. As a result, United States citizens should still be able to make transactions with other Tencent holdings.
Trump’s Tencent-focused executive order
Before the clarification about the scope of Trump’s Tencent-focused executive order, it seemed it could have a substantial impact on gaming in the United States. Tencent holds stakes in several gaming companies, including Riot Games, Epic Games, Activision Blizzard, Ubisoft, and others. Notably, Tencent’s reach includes the ownership and/or development of several esports. These include League of Legends, Fortnite, Valorant, Clash of Clans, Call of Duty: Mobile, and Pokémon Unite.
list of game and tech companies Tencent has stake in:
Riot Games (100%)
Epic Games (40%)
Grinding Gear Games
— Rod Breslau (@Slasher) August 7, 2020
In addition, Tencent has stakes in Reddit and Discord, social media apps used by a multitude of gaming communities. Ultimately, it seems that esports competitors will not face immediate consequences as a result of this executive order. Still, United States Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross has 45 days to identify the exact transactions that are subject to the order.
Dylan Tate is an alumnus of the Hussman School of Journalism and Media at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He is a gaming journalist with a love for Nintendo esports, particularly Super Smash Bros. and Pokémon.