Riot Games CEO Nicolo Laurent says he feels empathy for Blizzard over the studio’s ongoing Hong Kong controversy. During a round table discussion during League of Legends’ tenth anniversary celebrations in London, Laurent expressed Riot’s respect for Blizzard and said “it wouldn’t be fair” to judge the company's handling of the situation.
“It’s hard for me to judge them, because I don’t have all the facts, all the exact details. I’ve been on the other side of the equation – where people are judging without having all of the information – so often that I’m very hesitant to do that myself.”
When it comes to Riot’s attitude to potential controversy, however, Laurent’s viewpoint was far more simple. “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.”
In regards to the popular community refrain that Riot is setting itself up as a challenger to Blizzard during troubling times for the studio, Laurent said, “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.”
The comparisons between Riot and Blizzard are difficult to avoid, especially given that earlier this week, the MOBA developer unveiled a CCG, a tactical ability-based shooter, and an isometric co-op RPG (among other things). Get an MMOG and a couple of RTSs out the door, and we could be staring down the barrel of Blizzard 2.0, despite Laurent’s protestations.